BURTON—Injuries prevented Kirtland’s volleyball team from playing many regular season games at full strength but on Thursday the Hornets opened the postseason with its starting lineup intact.
The fifth-seeded Hornets used that opportunity to pull off an upset of No. 4 Newton Falls at Berkshire High School, 3-0.
“I can’t say enough about the girls today,” said Kirtland coach Bob Schenosky. “They came to play. We’ve been working very hard the last couple of weeks to get ready for playoffs and we finally have everyone healthy.”
Kirtland held off a late charge by the Tigers to win the first game, 25-21, then rallied from a 23-18 deficit to win game two, 26-24.
That momentum carried the Hornets to an easy 25-14 win in the final set.
“What we’ve talked about continuously is, I believe in them and I think they’re a good team and it’s a matter of them believing in themselves,” Schenosky said of the second set comeback. “When we’re down a few points, it’s about coming back and getting two at a time and then two more and two more and not worrying about what size the deficit is. It’s just keep fighting back for every single point. You just saw it on the court; their confidence grew with every single point. When we got to 24-24, I thought they believed they were going to win.”
Emma Bartholomew came off the bench to deliver several key serves during Kirtland’s second set comeback and Katherine Skrbis hammered home a few important kills.
Lilly Kelemen was dominant at the net in the win.
“We moved Lilly into the front today to go against their big middle and I thought she came out with a couple of great blocks early and I think that set the tone for the game,” Schenosky said. “Emma Bartholomew came in and made serves at the end of the game to pull us back in the second game and it was nice to see Katherine Skrbis healthy and back. I thought she had a terrific game hitting the ball today.”
Overall, the Hornets played as well as they have all season and they’ll need to build off that performance in Wednesday’s district semifinals against top-seeded Berkshire.
“I thought our net play was excellent and serving was good as well,” Schenosky said. “We had some issues early on with some of the serve receive but I thought we picked that up quite well. I think the biggest thing for the girls was really the hustle and the effort. It’s as good as I’ve seen all year long, there was no quit in them at all. I think that was the key. Once they were able to put away game two their confidence just grew and they came out in game three on fire.”