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Westlake fights back to take Eagles in five sets
Westlake fights back to take Eagles in five setsBy Jim Horvath

In the first set of Tuesday night’s volleyball match at Westlake, North Olmsted made enough mistakes to last an entire match in dropping a 25-19 decision.

The Eagles battled back, taking a 2-1 lead on Volley For The Cure Night. But with a chance to close things out in the fourth set, those mistakes crept back into the picture.

The Demons were all but happy to take advantage.

Westlake used two crucial Eagle errors to help close out the fourth set, then got the upper hand quickly in the fifth to come away with a 25-19, 22-25, 24-26, 25-23, 15-7 Southwestern Conference win.

“We were scratching out heads in the fifth game, because the wheels just came off,” admitted North Olmsted head coach Jason Krucek, whose team dropped to 5-12 overall and 2-9 in the SWC.

“The fourth was where we needed to get them,” Krucek said. “If we had gotten things done, we would have closed it out. We had no business going to a fifth game.

“Tonight, we started out with a new lineup that we had just worked on yesterday,” he said. “So in the first game, that’s where you saw us make all of those errors. We started playing together after that, but then we just couldn’t keep it together.”

Despite making 16 errors in the first set, the Eagles were quick to rebound in the second set. Senior Megan Branchick was doing a lot of damage hitting on the outside, giving the North Olmsted a potent one-two punch with fellow outside hitter Tia McCord. The senior duo were virtually unstoppable the entire match, but Westlake found some cracks in the North Olmsted defense and went to work.

The Eagles had held on in the third set, putting away a Demon overpass and getting a block kill from Branchick to close it out. In a back-and-forth battle that was the fourth set, it was Westlake’s for the taking as the Demons used a 5-1 run to take a 22-16 lead.

North Olmsted, however, battled back on a 4-1 service run by McCord and a tip kill from setter Tara Kelly. That’s when the match again started to sway in the Demons’ favor.

With Sara Worthing serving and the Eagles trailing by only one at 23-22, Westlake found itself in free ball mode on the next play. With the ball heading out of bounds, senior Alyssa Zollos chased it down and - with her back to the court - sent a free ball back over the net.

The ball, traveling with some heavy topspin, dropped in front of a pair of Eagle back row players, giving the Demons a 24-22 lead. Westlake missed the next serve, but North Olmsted responded in kind by sending the next ball out of bounds to tie the match at 2-2.

On the very first play of the fifth and deciding set, the Eagles looked like they would get off to the good start. The Demons were playing a tight ball at the net, and it looked like the ball was headed for the floor. Junior middle hitter Izabella Jamsek, however, dove and popped the ball up.

Sophomore Allyson Pesta was there, sending the saved ball over for a kill and a 1-0 Demon lead. Westlake never trailed the rest of the way. North Olmsted got back to within a point at 7-6, but the Demons used an 8-1 run to close out the match.

In that run, Pesta had two more kills, while senior Johanna Tolman added two along with a block kill. A Jamsek block of an Eagle overpass and an attack error by the Eagles ended it.

“Our kids have a lot of fight in them,” said Westlake head coach Regan Pore. “North Olmsted’s in the same position we’re in. We’re both right there around the middle of the conference, and we both need to start making a mark.

“I think for our girls, they really want to make that jump and get up to four, get up to three and move up to the top level of the conference. We’ve been talking about what you need to do to get there, and I think we’ve stepped up our game a bit,” Pore said.

“That fourth game is crucial,” Pore said. “Especially after losing the second and third games. Once you win that fourth game, it changes your momentum going into that fifth game.”

Pore said that her team’s decision making offensively played a big roll in the win. She pointed out a tip kill by Pesta in the fifth set that gave her team an 11-6 lead.

“Our players are learning when to swing away and when to be smart,” Pore said. “That tip by Allyson was big. It’s still a kill in the scorebook, and nobody knows how you got it. She’s learning how to be smart as an outside hitter.”

Westlake moved closer to the .500 mark at 8-9 and improved to 5-6 in the SWC.

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