Lady Crusaders down Lady Elkers in volleyball, 3-1
Elk County Catholic volleyball won 3-1 (25-22, 25-22, 14-25, 25-21) over Ridgway Thursday night at Ridgway Area High School. Ridgway coach Janet Redmond said the Lady Elkers played well and played with determination. "The girls played very well," Redmond said. "Our passing was so much better. We only missed five serves, which is good. I told them before, 'You got to play with heart and desire. Nothing's impossible.' They have to believe in themselves. They went on that court determined. They had fun, even though we lost, we played an excellent, excellent game. It was just nice to see them play the way I know they can play. I just want them to play with desire and have fun out there and they did."In the opening set, Ridgway took the advantage after the teams split the first 14 points. The Lady Crusaders made a pair of hitting errors to make the score 9-7. A Mandie Leithner kill put the lead to 10-7. Ellie Woodford added two more service points to push the Lady Elkers ahead 12-7 and force an Elk County Catholic timeout. Ridgway would continue to build the lead. At 18-12, the Lady Crusaders had a serving error and two hitting errors which pushed the lead to 21-12. After the teams alternated points, Ridgway stood with a 22-13 advantage. "Ridgway was giving us everything we could handle on defense," Elk County Catholic coach Diane Gies said. "They were mixing up their offense well. At first we didn't have an answer for their middles. We forced them to go somewhere else with the ball, which they were able to do that and that forced our defense. I think it was a good game for both of us back and forth because we both pushed each other to be better and that's what we needed to do." Things turned suddenly in the Lady Crusaders' favor at the end of the first set as Elk County Catholic would score the last 12 points of the set to snatch the opening set by a 25-22 margin. "The first game, our focus was broken," Redmond said. "They came out more determined than us in that first game." Carli Schneider started the 12-0 run with a kill and then went on to serve 11 straight service points. Anna VanEerden had a block and two kills on the run, the kills coming at 22-all and 23-22. A Ridgway error ended the first set and put ECC ahead 1-0 in the match. "We were hoping to come in and take the momentum early," Gies said. "We're trying to get everybody healthy and get everyone used to playing with a new lineup." Gies said the blocking improved as the match went on. "I would have liked us to block a little bit better in the first game but I think that got better as the match went on," Gies said. "We were flowing to the ball and recognizing what they were doing with it towards the end of the match, the middle of the match. I think that helped us to be able to keep the momentum." The second set was a back-and-forth display between both teams as they were tied 12 times in the set. The Lady Crusaders would build a bit of a lead at 17-all with four straight points. Jessie Ginther started the 4-0 run with a kill and then Ridgway had an error. Taylor DaCanal added a kill and Ridgway had a hitting error to leave the score at 21-17. Ridgway would add five straight points of their own to take the lead in the set at 22-21. Kos would serve for four points during the run, including an ace to put Ridgway ahead. Taylor DaCanal would put down a kill to tie the set at 22-all before Kirstie Wehler added two kills, the second one on a tip. Hayley DaCanal served an ace to end the set and put the Lady Crusaders ahead 2-0. Ridgway would push the Lady Crusaders past the third set with a late push. With the set tied at 10-all, Ridgway would score 15 of the next 19 points to take the fourth set by a 25-14 margin. Ridgway senior Katie Oknefski was a major part of the 15-4 run for the Lady Elkers, adding back-to-back kills at 14-12 to give Ridgway a 4-point lead. At 17-13, Oknefski and Kos put down kills before a Woodford ace had the lead up to 20-14. Oknefski led the Lady Elkers with 18 kills and Redmond said Kos is playing well as a sophomore. "Sierra, being a sophomore, is really coming around," Redmond said. "She had four really nice hits. She's getting more confidence in herself, she's following through with her swing, it's coming."At 21-14, Oknefski put down a kill from the back row and then served an ace. Overall, the Lady Elkers scored the last five points for the 25-14 advantage. "At times we looked pretty strong and at times we looked really inexperienced and I think that's something we need to continue to work on at practice, just being consistent with what we're doing and playing smart," Gies said. Elk County Catholic started out fast in the fourth set by scoring seven of the first 10 points. That stretch was keyed by a 4-0 run at 3-all, aided by two kills from VanEerden and a tip kill from Taylor DaCanal. At 10-7, Ridgway would add a 4-0 spurt of its own with service points from Leithner. At 14-all, the Lady Crusaders would stretch the lead with five straight points and six of the next seven for a 20-15 lead. Ridgway would challenge Elk County Catholic to the final point. With ECC up 24-17 and facing a multitude of match points, Ridgway would score four straight points off of three ECC hitting errors and a McClain kill. Schneider ended the match with a kill for the Crusaders. Oknefski led Ridgway with 18 kills. McClain had six kills and Leithner finished with four. Ridgway is scheduled to host Sheffield next Tuesday, with junior varsity action to start at 6 p.m. and the varsity match to follow. The Lady Crusaders are scheduled to host Johnsonburg next Tuesday. "We're still trying to find what works," Gies said. "We have two new kids coming back that we haven't had since the first week of practice, so getting them in there and finding what everyone's strengths and weaknesses are, it's still a learning experience."