Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Throughout the first half of the 2013 season the Magnificat Blue Streaks had gone through more than their fair share of bumps and bruises.
But in Monday night's neighborhood rivalry match with Rocky River, the Streaks looked to be in a picture of health. They used a balanced attack and a strong defensive performance to sweep the visiting Pirates 25-14, 25-13, 25-12 to move to 7-5 on the season.
"We've been pretty dinged up," admitted Magnificat head coach Mike Cannon, who was able to use his entire roster against the Pirates.
"We had a big day Saturday against Mt. Notre Dame and Walsh Jesuit. So tonight, we needed everyone to contribute and give the kids who have been playing through some injuries some rest. We have two days to rest now before we play St. Joe's on Thursday."Tonight everybody contributed, and that was good to see," he added.In all three games, Rocky River stayed close in the beginning, only to see the Blue Streaks eventually pull away. The tightest game was the first one as the Pirates stayed within three points at 16-13.
But Magnificat would go on a 9-1 run to close it out, with sophomore middle Christina Cotton getting three of her team-high seven kills. She nailed a pair of quicks for points 23 and 24, then junior outside hitter Kelly Sullivan scored an ace for the game winner. In game two, the Pirates came out swinging and were right there at 5-5 on a kill off the block by junior outside hitter Mallory Krajcer. The Blue Streaks had inched out to an 11-6 lead when Sullivan again went back to the service line.
Sullivan ran off a streak of 11 straight points, thanks in part to three kills from senior Megan Grace. Cotton chipped in with a kill of a River overpass and another when she teamed up with sophomore Margaret Midgette for a block.
The Pirates answered with a run of their own, thanks to three kills from senior outside hitter Kara Coffman. But a pair of River hitting errors and a roll shot for a kill by freshman Grace Kormos ended the game and had the Streaks up 2-0 in the match.
Game three saw the Streaks jump out to a 12-5 lead with Cotton serving a pair of aces and Sullivan one. Kormos and senior Renee Marinez also teamed up for a block kill in the early run. From there, a pair of kills each from Cotton and Kormos - along with aces from Cotton, Grace and junior Molly McCool - helped close out the match for the home team.
Cotton led the way with her seven kills, while Kormos and senior Nicole Keshock chipped in with six and five, respectively. Senior setter Claire Lambert had 16 assists, while Midgette dished out eight. Senior libero Shannon Grega had 18 digs, while Sullivan registered 15.
"We're starting to play better now and get more comfortable," Cannon said. "We went through about two weeks of struggling. I can appreciate that we had some kids who were hurt, but still trying to get us through these matches.
"The two losses we had to Padua were substantial, but in our other losses we were right in there. We battled St. Ursula and Mt. Notre Dame, so we're starting to believe we can do this now. We have six seniors, but our younger kids are doing an awesome job contributing every time we play. And, they're making practices better," he said.
Rocky River head coach Kelly Bennett, whose team finished the first half of the season at 5-6, said Magnificat's defense made all the difference in this match.
"I thought we did some good things tonight, and we took some really good swings," Bennett said. "In fact, a lot of those swings we took, we're used to the ball falling for us.
"Justine Coffman, our middle, had some great swings, but they found a way to dig the ball and bring it back. They played some phenomenal defense tonight. They're just so consistent and solid.
"Our passing overall was pretty good, and so was our serve receive. We had a lot of good looks, but we just had a hard time getting anything to fall," she added.
Rocky River jumps back into West Shore Conference action Tuesday night when it hosts Bay.
(You can follow us on Twitter @BeAFanatic)