By HO HOFFMAN
Special to The Gazette
LaGRANGE â€” The Rocky River Pirates fired three solid broadsides at Buckeye Saturday, sinking the Bucksâ€™ chances and eliminating them in a LaGrange Keystone Division II Sectional final volleyball match.
Rocky River (18-6) came out with guns blazing, jumping out to a 17-4 first-game lead from which Buckeye never recovered, as the Pirates won in three games, 25-13, 25-20, 25-22.
â€œWe were very confident coming into the game and believed we could beat Buckeye,â€ Rocky River coach Kelly Bennett said. â€œI think (us) winning that first game by such a big margin shocked Buckeye and they never really got back into the match.â€
Bennett was right, the Bucks (19-5) never could get untracked after the disastrous start and beared no resemblance to the team that won the Patriot Athletic Conference title and blew Firelands away in their tournament opener.
â€œWe were terrible, just terrible,â€ Buckeye coach Brianne Indorf said. â€œOur passing and defense was non-existant. It was the worst weâ€™ve played all year. Everybody was off, we lost this match as a team. It wasnâ€™t one or two individuals who were off, it was everybody.â€
A lot of the Bucksâ€™ problems stemmed from the play of the Piratesâ€™ front line, which included three 6-footers. Maureen Kessler (20 kills, 5 blocks), Maeve Kessler (7 kills, 5 blocks) and Molly McNally (6 kills, 5 blocks) completely neutralized the offensive effort of the Bucksâ€™Â Marah Farage (12 kills, 10 blocks, 13 digs)Â and Nicole Wurstle (12 kills, 4 blocks).
â€œWe knew about Farage and what a great player she was, and made sure we kept the ball away from her or were ready to block when she went up for a kill,â€ Bennett said. â€œWurstle was a â€˜sleeper.â€™ We werenâ€™t ready for her and she played a great game. She is going to be a very good player for Buckeye.â€
The problem with Buckeye wasnâ€™t that Farage and Wurstle couldnâ€™t finish when they were set up, the problem was Buckeye had a hard time setting them up. The Bucks had more free balls and dinks then they did kill opportunities.
A lot of that was due to the Pirates, but a lack of communication played a huge part. In game two, the Bucks were able to nail onlyÂ six kills, losing 25-20 after having been tied at 15-15.
The passing was not there, and as a result, Farage and Wurstle were being set up far away from the net. In addition, the Bucks failed to communicate on a number of long or out of bounds balls that they attempted to play and couldnâ€™t.
â€œWe tried to take their passers out of the game with our serves,â€ Bennett said. â€œWe wanted to make them start as far away from the net as possible. Buckeye even helped us out on occasions trying to play serves that were going to be long.â€
In game three, Buckeye, behind the setting of Kara Joyce (28 assists) and the serving of Alexa Weiland (7 service points) and Carrah Casteel (5 service points) playedÂ its best volleyball of the match, but even that wouldnâ€™t be enough.
The Bucks tookÂ their first lead of the dayÂ at 2-1, took their biggest lead at 19-15 and their last one at 20-19 before the Pirates took over for good and closed the dealÂ at 25-22.
â€œIâ€™ve preached all along that we will only be as good as our weakest link,â€ Indorff said, â€œand today I kept going to the bench for subs and switching lineups to get us going but nobody stepped up.
â€œWe did have a good season and I am proud of the girls for that but if we want to get better and be a good tournament team we have to work harder. That means weight room and summer league participation. We canâ€™t get better by standing pat, those who want to play next year will have to work hard if they want to be part of this team. Next year, we do not want any weak links.â€
Hoffman may be reached at email@example.com.