PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio – With seedings for sectional and district play one day away, Saturday at Holy Name High School was a perfect opportunity for a tune-up for some of the top volleyball teams in the area and also a way to send a message.
The four teams involved — Strongsville, Beaumont, Holy Name and Rocky River — all had something at stake.
Strongsville was coming off an emotional win over North Royalton. The host Green Wave are undefeated in their conference and playing for the championship Tuesday, but have yet to play a team in their district.
Beaumont, despite missing some of its key players, is gearing for another deep run in the state tournament and is on a mission to prove that last year was no fluke, while Rocky River was looking to make a statement that it can play with the best.
It proved to be a good test for all.
You’ve heard of flip-flop politics? Well, this was a quad match that pretty much flip-flopped, with each team excelling in one way or the other.
Holy Name, 14-6 on the year, started the day slowly against Rocky River. But after winning the first game by a slim margin (25-22), it came back with a vengeance and took the second game, 25-14.
The victory seemed to give coach Jenny Peters’ girls momentum heading into the Strongsville match as well as into the postseason.
“We kind of started off slow, but got into a rhythm our second set,” Peters said of the Rocky River match. “Strongsville is having an excellent season. So I knew it would be a tough battle.”
“I knew physically we could compete very well. It was about staying focused and I think the girls realized if they stuck together as a team they could stick with them.”
The Strongsville match went to three games, with Holy Name winning the first game, 25-22, losing the second, 25-13, then winning the deciding game, 27-25.
“I think after the first game, they went out a little too excited,” Peters said. “It was a kind of a reminder the second set that [Strongsville is] ranked 15th in the state and they went out in the third one and really wanted it.”
The key to the win over Strongsville was middle hitter Emily Lachowski, who picked up her game. On the day she had 17 kills. Leah Switalksi also had a great afternoon for Holy Name, posting 22 kills.
The Green Wave’s only loss came to Beaumont, which also went 2-1 on the day. Beaumont won in two tight games, 25-21, 25-21.
“We saw Holy Name at the beginning of the year and I was much impressed with them. They are very improved,” Beaumont coach Patrick Royer said. “They may have had a little bit of a letdown against us after the emotional match with Strongsville.”
What made Beaumont’s afternoon impressive was that the team was missing three starters and had to play with mixed-up lineups all afternoon. Molly Davet carried the load and had a great day on the court, while Laura Youngblood also was impressive as she played six different positions.
Strongsville, 16-4 on the year and ranked 15th in the state, downed Beaumont in its first match, 25-22, 25-23, then easily handled River in the second match, 25-15, 25-20.
What made the Beaumont match interesting was that the Mustangs recorded only one ace. The Mustangs then beat River, 25-13, 25-20, behind six aces.
Beaumont then fell to Holy Name.
“They were strong, their blocking was [good] but we had a lot of unforced errors,” Strongsville coach Erik Sopata said. “But it was good to get some good, quality competition heading into the last few weeks of the season.”
Kelsey Bittinger had 32 kills, 30 digs and three aces on the day. Andi Mott had 66 assists, while Jackie Fabec had seven blocks and 20 kills.
The Pirates fell to 12-16 on the year. Although they lost three games, the team showed a lot of fight and never quit.
Matt Pawlikowski is a freelance writer in Cleveland.