The Cardinal Huskies tested themselves in the preseason and that paid off in Saturday’s season opener at West Geauga.
The Huskies won the first two sets against the Wolverines, 25-18 and 25-20, before dropping the third, 23-25. They rallied in the fourth to pull out the 3-1 win.
“We had some nice scrimmages at the beginning of the summer,” said Cardinal coach Karisca Chambers. “We scrimmaged Perry, who is extremely tough, so that kind of challenged us right off the bat and showed us that even though we lost those two seniors we're going to be challenged this year. We have to have some of the underclassmen step up and the seniors this year definitely have to step up. Today was a true test of that.”
Losing Caitlyn Lechene and Haley Adams to graduation changed the composition of the Huskies lineup. They went from having two powerful hitters to a much smaller lineup that will have to pick and choose their spots.
Jordyn Schultz led the Huskies with 17 kills and also dug 16 balls. Kaylee Klepper contributed with 17 digs.
“Kaylee Klepper stood out to me,” Chambers said. “I had her playing middle back and left front. She played all the way around. She's only a sophomore. She started for me last year as a middle and throughout the season eventually moved to right side. Having Caitlyn Lechene graduate, Kaylee has stepped up and is our other outside hitter. She did a nice job and was second in leading with digs.
“Between Kaylee and Jordyn Schultz, they both stepped up and were smart with the ball. That's honestly what we need. I was telling them not to go up and crush it, just place it, especially against a tall team. We're small. Our tallest girl is 5-8 I think so we're little this year. We have to come out and be smart and place the ball.”
The Huskies got off to a shaky start.
West Geauga built a 6-1 lead in the first set before Cardinal found its bearings and stormed back for the win.
“We could not get it together,” Chambers said. “I think it was first game jitters. We weren't communicating well. I think we were just nervous in general. I think that played into it. We bounced back and ended up taking the first set, which was very exciting. The girls were pumped up and ready to go.”
The Huskies led for most of the second set to go up 2-0.
West Geauga pulled out a back and forth third set to push the match into a fourth game.
“I was excited because we were leading most of the game,” Chambers said of the third set. “They crept back up. I looked to my assistant and I said I'm not calling a time out. They're going to finish this out. They have to figure it out. This is a true test for them to see if their togetherness can pull through this. We fell a little bit short; it ended up being 25-23.”
Chambers made sure her squad understood the importance of winning the match in four sets.
“I told them we can't afford to go five sets the first game,” she said. “We have to take care of business to set us up for the whole season. That fourth set was back and forth, back and forth. I think I lost 10 years off my life because it was back and forth. There were long volleys and sporadic volleys. Both teams were hitting the ball very well. The back row was doing a nice job on both sides.”
Senior co-captain Maddie Bean led the Huskies with 40 assists.
“It was great getting back out there,” Bean said. “I was very proud of the girls today. I try to mentally prepare myself knowing that coach gave me the role of co-captain and trying to fulfill that role. We are off to a positive start of the season.”
Megan Zeigler pitched in with 32 digs.
Hannah Traggai filled in for an injured Faith Peters on the front row.
“I had to move around the lineup a little bit,” Chambers said. “I had Hannah Traggai playing front row. She never played front row before but we're kind of low on numbers this year so I had to throw together a lineup. She did a nice job in the right front. She was able to make plays. She had three kills and she didn't have many errors.”
Cardinal travels to Crestwood on Tuesday.