MIDDLEFIELD—Kirtland clinched its second straight Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title with a 3-1 win at Cardinal on Thursday.
The Hornets won the match, 25-16, 21-25, 25-21, 25-8.
“The team was excited to be able to earn their way to another conference title,” said Kirtland coach Arlayna Newcomer. “They battled throughout the night and got themselves a really nice win.”
Kirtland, who improved to 19-1 overall and 9-0 in league play, extended its winning streak to 19 straight matches.
The Hornets did it with a fast start and a short memory.
“The girls did a good job starting out tough and being ready to play from the start,” Newcomer said. “This season, we’ve struggled to start off strong but we’ve been working on it and it showed tonight.”
After cruising to the win in the first set, the Hornets gave way to the Huskies in the second set but quickly erased that setback from their memories and finished off the match.
Nina Loncar led the Hornets with 14 kills and also tied Stella DeJohn for the team lead with six blocks. Natalie Glowe added 13 kills and Ava Golem posted a team-high with 43 digs and tied Katie Reynolds with three service aces. Reynolds led the team with 40 assists.
Kirtland hosts North in a non-conference match on Monday and then closes out the season with a conference matchup at Crestwood on Tuesday.
The Hornets will use those final two matches to prepare for another long postseason run after winning the district title last season.
“We’re really looking forward to the postseason,” Newcomer said. “The team has grown tremendously since the beginning of the year and continues to get better every day. The sky is the limit for this team.”
Cardinal dropped to 15-4 overall and 7-2 in the Valley Division, but the Huskies know they have a lot left to play for as the postseason approaches.
“I always say, even if we don’t win CVC, there is still districts,” said Cardinal coach Karisca Chambers. “We have to bounce back and focus on the future.”
While the Huskies dropped both matches to Kirtland this season, they are the only Valley Division team to take a set from the Hornets, who have won 27 of 29 league sets played and 54 of 63 sets played overall.
“I truly believe both teams were extremely talented,” Chambers said. “We gave them a run for their money and showed up to play. We are one of the very few teams who have taken sets from Kirtland this season. We should be proud. We battled hard; we always do. I’m proud of our effort.”
Kirtland’s aggressive serves often took Cardinal out of system.
The Huskies were inconsistent in passing the ball to setter Haley Domen, which resulted in many tips and free balls being delivered over the net.
“We struggled to get the ball on serve receive to Domen at times,” Chambers said. “They are a tough serving team and at times we weren’t able to run multiple plays. We also had some connection errors offensively. I think if we clean up some unforced errors, connect better offensively, that’s a different volleyball game. We were so close, we just needed to finish that third set. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way.”
After winning the second set, Cardinal jumped out to an early five-point lead in the third but the Hornets rallied to tie the score at 9-9 and went on to win the next two sets to close out the match.
“I love how my girls never back down from a challenge,” Chambers said. “They don’t get intimidated or nervous about big games. They get hyped and ready to compete. I give them a lot of credit for the way they show up. I’m looking forward to the postseason ahead. This is just a small bump in the road, not a complete roadblock.”
Kirtland and Cardinal met in the Division III district championship game last year, with the Hornets winning in five sets. The Hornets and Huskies are on a collision course again this season with a potential third matchup looming in the district tournament.