BRUNSWICK — Mentor and Brunswick should be two of the better volleyball teams in Northeast Ohio throughout this season.
The Cardinals, however, gained bragging rights over the Blue Devils on Thursday night.
Senior middle hitter Megan Moroney collected 14 kills and a match-high seven blocks, leading undefeated Mentor to a 20-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-23 non-league victory over Brunswick.
“It’s rare for me to be OK with a loss, but this really felt like a playoff atmosphere tonight — and it was only our first home game,” Blue Devils coach Mande Pyzik said. “The scrappiness that our girls showed against a very good team was incredible.
“I also thought all of the nerves that our younger players showed last weekend seemed to get pushed away. They just went out and played their hearts out, without any fear.”
Senior setter Megan Anderson posted a double-double with 10 kills and 11 assists for Brunswick (2-2), while sophomore middle hitter Julia Holden crushed a career-high 14 kills and sophomore outside hitter Gina Yurik had eight kills.
Senior libero Allison Evans also turned in her usual superb effort for the Blue Devils, who led midway through the final two games before Moroney took over at crunch time.
“We call her the ‘RoneDawg,’ which is why you probably heard the girls barking at times,” Mentor coach Brian Cuglewski said. “She puts down a great ball, as you saw, but I’ve got to give Brunswick a lot of credit. I’ve never seen a team make so many digs off deflections at the net. We had to earn every point we scored tonight.”
The Cardinals (3-0) won the kill battle 46-44, outblocked their hosts 13-8 and had six aces to five by the Blue Devils.
But there was a strong sense that both squads actually won — in the big picture — just by facing each other in the Northeast Ohio Conference crossover matchup.
“We’ve got so much talent, but we need our young players to gain experience in situations like this,” said Anderson, a three-year starter and co-captain. “We all had to go through it, where nerves get to you at first, but I thought they all showed a lot of growth, even from last weekend.”
The key young player on Brunswick’s roster is sophomore Erika Overton, a setter who played a statistically perfect match against Mentor. She dished out a match-high 21 assists and fired three aces without committing an unforced error.
As important, Overton’s emergence has allowed the multi-talented Anderson to split her time between setter and outside hitter, which makes the Blue Devils a better team.
“It’s awesome having Megan working with me every day, teaching me how to run the offense,” Overton said. “I feel a lot more confident now and I’m really having fun out there. We have to take things one day at a time, but by the end of this season, this team should be amazing.”
Sophomore middle hitters Katelyn Keckler and Olivia Krivanek added four kills apiece for Brunswick, which won the Midview Division I District last fall.
Blue Devils twins Megan Anderson and outside hitter Erin Anderson celebrated their birthdays.
• Add Brunswick to the long list of schools with blooper banners in its gym. The Blue Devils finished fourth in the NOC Valley Division last season, but a decal was added to their volleyball banner declaring them the 2012 league champions.
• The Cardinals rallied for a 20-25, 25-22, 25-21 victory in the junior varsity match.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.