Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Consistency may be the word uttered most by volleyball coaches at all levels of the game when talking about their team’s play. The ups and downs in a match, along with the sometimes-drastic momentum swings, make it a crucial component to a team’s success.
Thursday night’s Southwestern Conference volleyball matchup between North Olmsted and Westlake was one between two teams looking for more of that consistency.
With the regular season nearing a close, North Olmsted seemed to have the edge in that department. The Eagles, behind a 13-kill performance from senior Dana Borsz, held off a determined Demons squad for a 25-17, 25- 23, 25-19 win on Volley For The Cure Night in the Westlake gym.
“Consistency is part of it,” admitted Eagles head coach Jason Krucek, whose team is now 9-9 overall and 7-5 in the SWC.
“Tonight, we were focusing on first serve and taking that away from them,” Krucek said. “I believe we had eight in a row in the third game where we limited them to one serve. In general, we’re focused on staying consistent, running some plays and doing the things we do well.
“We also realized this week that a lot of times we’re playing not to lose. We talked about trying to get out of that funk. We want to go into the rest of our matches expecting to do well, like we did tonight,” he added.
While the final scores may have indicated otherwise, North Olmsted had a tough time shaking off the Demons in all three sets.
In the first set, for example, the score was tied eight times early on before the Eagles used a missed Westlake serve to jump-start a run.
After a kill outside by Courtney Nestoff, North Olmsted continued to build an 11-2 run. During that run, the Demons were their own worst enemy with five unforced errors. The score reached 19-10, Eagles, when Amelia Lingruen served short for an ace, one of her team-leading six on the night.
Westlake got back into it on three straight Eagle attack errors, but the visitors quickly settled down to close out the first-set win. A Borsz kill and a setter attack for another by Tara Kelly finished off the win for North Olmsted.
A flury of hiting errors by the Eagles, however, helped Westlake get off to a strong 8-3 start in the second set. The Demons’ sophomore middle, Katie Murray, helped offensively with a tip kill off the block and a block kill.
The Demon lead reached 10-5 on a tip kill by senior Taylor Kolarik, then reached 15-10 on an Eagle serving error. Another Borsz kill got North Olmsted back on track and sparked an 8-0 run with Lingruen at the service line.
During that run, Lingruen ripped four aces in five points that gave the Eagles a 17-15 lead. A Westlake hitting error made it 18-15, but the Demons managed an 8-1 run of their own to regain the lead, 23-19. A pair of kills by Michelle Bogard and a combo block by Bogard and Kolarik had the Demons on the verge of tying the match.
But after a timeout, the Eagles regained their composure and rallied.
After Borsz ripped a kill off a Kelley set, she went back to the end line and served out the set. Her ace tied things at 23-23, then a hitting error and a roll kill by Nestoff finished off the comeback.
Westlake came back again, taking a 4-1 lead on a kill from the outside from junior Allyson Pesta. The set remained close until Borsz struck again, this time on a kill out of the back row for an 11-10 Eagle advantage.
The Borsz kill started a 9-2 run that put some distance between North Olmsted and the home team. The Demons got close again, 21-19, on three more Eagle hitting errors, but the visitors scored the final four points to end the match.
Senior Stephanie Drellishak came in off the bench to serve up the final point, registering an ace.
For the match, Nestoff and Kelley each racked up seven kills, while Kelley dished out 26 assists. The Eagles played the match without junior outside hitter Tia McCord, who was out due to illness, according to Krucek.
Westlake fell to 6-11 overall and 3-9 in the SWC. First-year head coach Meghan Mental said her team was improving, but was still looking for a more consistent effort.
“We put a solid 20, 22 points together,” Mental said. “And then for some reason, either our focus goes away or we’re just not mentally strong enough to push through until the end of a game, which is frustrating.
“I know the girls are getting frustrated too,” Mental said. “I just keep reminding them that we are getting better. We’re at least getting to that point rather than just getting to 10 points. I’m trying to keep things positive and get them ready for next week. We’ve got the end of the conference season, then the start of the tournament coming up.”
Mental said her team’s struggles aren’t for a lack of effort.
“The girls are working extremely hard, and I can’t ask any more from them right now,” she said. “It is frustrating, especially when you keep losing, you’re working as hard as they are in practices and you’re not getting the outcome you want.
“I give them a lot of credit for showing up every day in practice, staying focused and working hard. We are improving. A lot of people have started to notice that. We’ve just got to finish and fine tune those little things,” she added.