(photo courtesy of Cheryl Hall)
For the first time in over 14 years the North Olmsted junior varsity volleyball team made it to the final match in the Southwestern Conference tournament held Oct. 15 at North Olmsted High School.
Sixth-ranked North Olmsted defeated third-ranked Brecksville (25-15, 25-21) and second ranked Olmsted Falls (25-21 25-20) to play in the final match against No. 1 Amherst. North Olmsted finished 2nd overall on the season.
The first match against Brecksville was tough, but North Olmsted stayed ahead throughout the match. The defensive plays made by libero Alexa Cunningham continually gave the team a positive and strong momentum that led them to a victory over Brecksville. The deadly combination of freshman setter Michaela Koran, leading the team in assists, and Courtney Nestoff, leading the team in kills, gave the opponents a reason to worry.
The second match against Olmsted Falls was the real victory of the day for the Eagles. With North Olmsted down 11-1 in the first game, the Eagles kept their intensity with every point, and with the help of strong serves from Katie Lemmeier and Stephanie Drellishak, the Eagles climbed back up to close the gap to 14-11. The Eagles did not give up. Amanda Kall covered Olmsted Falls tips and recovered balls that should have been easy points for Olmsted Falls. The Eagles played a strong defensive game. Aggressive blocks by their two strong middles, Michelle Clark and Haley Bukala, helped the defense set up their court coverage and the Eagles took advantage of every ball.
“I am very proud of these girls,” head coach Brittany Hall said. “They have worked very hard all season and it showed today. I told them that they have the skill and the potential to be good players, but volleyball is mental. It was their mental game, their heart and their consistency, that made them great players. All of these girls worked hard, sometimes in the gym for an additional two hours after practice was over. Not only were they dedicated to the game, they were dedicated to each other. They played as one (in the tournament) and because of their hard work and discipline they pushed through and accomplished something so impressive and commendable.
“Amherst was a great opponent to play against in the championship,” Hall added. “They are a classy program and a very strong team. Both teams fought hard to earn their points, and I was very pleased with how the girls stayed aggressive and scored on long rallies. It was a great performance by both teams. When a game is played with heart and intensity, even second is a great feeling.
“I would also like to recognize Mike Kicielincki, the team’s manager,” Hall added. “Mike attended all practices and games, helping out in practice wherever need be, keeping track of the girls’ progress in practice and in games, and he was my sounding board for practice ideas, lineup changes and volleyball coach concerns overall. He was a great asset to the program this season and definitely a huge impact on the girls’ success.”