KIRTLAND—Less than 24 hours after suffering a five-set loss to West Geauga, Kirtland turned the table and beat visiting Cuyahoga Heights, 3-2, on Wednesday.
The Hornets opened the match with a 25-11 win in the first set but the Redskins rallied to win the next two, 25-21 and 25-16. Kirtland forced a fifth set with a 25-16 win in the fourth then rolled to a 15-5 win to close out the match.
“I told them after the match, be happy with the takeaway,” said Kirtland coach Bob Schenosky. “You won a difficult match. You came back in four and five and that’s what you need to go home on.”
The message was simple but necessary following the disappointing loss to West Geauga the day before.
After falling behind to the Redskins, 2-1, the Hornets could have said, ‘Here we go again,” and hung their heads. Instead, they dug deep and pulled out the Chagrin Valley Conference victory.
“I think this tells them what they’re about,” Schenosky said. “By coming back from yesterday and having difficulty saying, ‘Oh, we lost a tough match,’ then having a couple of tough sets here they could have just fallen apart and quit. I think that’s who this group is. I think the senior leadership we have in these five or six kids has pulled them all back and huddled together by themselves before the fourth game and they knew what they had to do and they did it.”
Where they struggled in the sets two and three, the Hornets thrived in the fourth and fifth frames.
Suddenly, the sets that were too low or too far outside found their intended targets and Abby Ruckel and Laura Koschik hammered them home. Middle blockers Lilly Kelemen and Stella DeJohn countered the Cuyahoga Heights attack.
“I have to say, between Laura and Abby, they really stepped up without (injured) Kathryn (Skrbis) in place,” Schenosky said. “Abby has done a great job hitting out of the strong side and even Erin (Koschik) has done a great job too. Lilly had some nice blocks at the end. Stella stepped into a difficult position as a freshman middle, especially as a lefty. Two matches in, I think she’s doing a great job. I’m excited about the season for these girls.”
On the other bench, the Redskins also have plenty of positives to take from the match, despite the loss.
They responded to the loss in the first set with two straight wins.
“We’ve got I think four new starters who have never played varsity before so we’re still trying to learn how to play together,” said Heights coach Terry Spilker. “It’s just a matter of confidence. We worked really hard on some things and it’s just a matter of getting back to believing in what we’ve trained on and believing in ourselves that carried us through the other sets and now we just have to learn how to close them out.”
The Redskins played well on defense and spread the ball around to the hitters in winning the second and third sets.
They needed that consistency in the fourth and fifth games.
“We were playing with energy and having fun and we were relaxed and confident,” Spilker said. “We get into the end when it’s tight and they know the game is on the line and they tighten up. That’s what it is. When they’re relaxed and having fun, they play really well.”
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