Sep. 23—LINESVILLE — In the home opener for the Conneaut girls volleyball team, the Lady Eagles had to go up against the team they knocked off in last year's District 10 Class 3A championship game.
With the home crowd behind them, the Lady Eagles made sure Thursday's game ended with the same result as the last time the two teams met as they took care of Cathedral Prep in a 3-0 sweep (25-21, 25-11, 25-13).
"I do think that both teams were probably a little amped up because what was at stake the last time we met," said Conneaut head coach Christine Krankota. "However, regardless of what happened then, we're focused on this season and this roster and what we can accomplish with the girls on the team this year. Yeah, it's great to look into the past and remember that memory, but we're focused on this season right now and we're taking it one practice and one match at a time and it was a pretty darn good start for our home opener this year."
The Lady Eagles showed that they were ready to put last season to bed almost immediately on the court as they started the game on a 7-1 run. However, the Lady Ramblers fought their way back, eventually tying the set at 15. The next few points went back-and-forth until it was tied at 19. From that point on, the Lady Eagles ended the set on a 6-2 run for a 25-21 win. Reigning Region 5 Player of the Year Kaylee Mattera clinched the set for the Lady Eagles after she fired the ball to the other side of the court for a kill.
"I think we're a very conditioned team, being able to go into long rallies like that," Mattera said. "We were able to just get balls, get good passes, get good serves and get the kills and points when we needed to."
The Lady Eagles' momentum from the end of the first set carried over into the next two sets as they went out to a 5-2 lead to start the second set. Then, the Lady Ramblers scored three of the next four points to pull within one. However, that was close as Cathedral Prep got in the set as the Lady Eagles rattled off the next four points to go up by five. The rest of the set was smooth sailing for the Lady Eagles as they went on a 15-6 run to win it 25-11.
The third and final set was just as dominant as the previous one as the Lady Eagles earned the first three points, with two of those coming courtesy of kills by Mattera. After the Lady Ramblers got their first point, the Lady Eagles secured four unanswered scores to lead by six. The rest of the set featured little problems for the Lady Eagles as they used an 18-12 run to win 25-13 and complete the sweep.
"You could just tell that they were meshing as a group," Krankota said. "I think that they had some nerves bubbling under the surface in the first set. Big crowd tonight, they were loud. We had a few miscommunication errors because of the noise in here, but they regrouped and limited their miscommunication errors, minimized their unforced errors and everyone on the floor did their job."
While the crowd noise caused a few problems for the Lady Eagles at first, the team fed off the energy the crowd was giving them, Mattera said.
"It was great to have a home opener," Mattera said. "Everybody coming to support us and our student fan section being so loud, that definitely gives us a lot of encouragement and a lot of confidence to know that everybody's behind us."
According to Mattera, beating Cathedral Prep in a rematch of last year's district championship made it much sweeter.
"It was a super great feeling to beat them and we came into this knowing we wanted to beat the crap out of them, so we came through tonight and swept them," Mattera said.
Overall, Mattera finished the game with 17 kills, 12 digs and six blocks.
"Kaylee Mattera played like Kaylee Mattera tonight," Krankota said. "She was consistent. She played smart. Defensively, she was picking up balls all over the place and anyone who's seen her play knows what she can do offensively and she did a very good job of playing smart and spreading the ball all over the floor."
Many of Mattera's teammates also showed up. Payten Karastury orchestrated the offense with 26 assists and added five digs. Ginger Woods earned seven blocks and five kills while Mackenzie Wensel contributed five kills, blocks and digs each. Paris Karastury and Ashley Crabb compiled 12 and 10 digs, respectively.
"We did a good job of getting the ball up to Payten and she did a fantastic job of running the offense tonight," Krankota said. "Our hitters did the job when they needed to. They buried the ball when they had the opportunity."
With the win, the Lady Eagles remain undefeated at 4-0. They will next participate in the Meadville Tournament on Saturday.
"We're nitpicking a lot," Krankota said. "Obviously, we don't want them to be peaking yet and we feel like they can improve on all aspects of their game because if they are hitting their stride in any aspect right now, then we're peaking a little too early, so we're gonna continue to work on all the fundamentals, everything in practice from here on out and hope that they can continue to grow, which we know they will, but they took a big step in the right direction tonight and we're very happy with them."
Alex McGinley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by e-mail at email@example.com.