By Ryan Kaczmarski
Ever since 1979, high school volleyball teams from all over the area have traveled to Rocky River to compete at the Rocky River Pirates Invitational. This year, the eight-team tournament featured Brookside, Cuyahoga Heights, Keystone, Lakewood, North Olmsted, Trinity, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin and host Rocky River high schools, with ND-CL defeating Brookside for the championship on Saturday.
At one time, this was one of the premier events on the volleyball schedule.
“(The tournament) has been around for a very long time,” Rocky River head coach Kelly Bennett said. “We’ve seen – 15-20 years ago – some of the best teams in the state attending this tournament, so it has a great history.
“We are always so proud to host it every year.”
The Pirates defeated Keystone to take third place in the tournament, keeping the streak of futility alive since the event’s inception.
“We have never won it, so every year we feel excited and ready to compete.”
In the past, volleyball powerhouses like Magnificat, Solon, Mentor and Lake Catholic would compete in the event, but most of those teams have moved on to other events, or started their own tournaments.
“Some teams have just gone their own way,” Bennett said. “Mags has their own tournament (on the same weekend) now.
“The teams that are here now, we invite back most of the time. We’ve had some changes in our conference, so Elyria Catholic was not invited back (because they are West Shore Conference rivals now).”
North Olmsted lost to Rocky River in the first round, but came back to defeat Trinity and Cuyahoga Heights to win the consolation bracket.
“We tried to explain to the kids, if you lose Match One, you’re putting yourselves in the (consolation) bracket for a very long day,” North Olmsted head coach Jason Krucek said.
The volleyball season is just two weeks old, but Krucek sees his team coming together nicely.
“We just had a huge win over Olmsted Falls, which is the first time in almost 10 years,” he said. “That was a good start.
“Today, we kind of faltered in the first round, but we have a real solid team,” he continued. “We were short one of our outside (hitters) today. She is out taking the ACT. We have a tough schedule, but we’re improving.”
Krucek thinks that this is the year North Olmsted can make some noise in the Southwestern Conference, and possibly take the title.
“For the first time, in a long time, it seems like everybody has backed down to a very competitive level,” he said. “I think it’s going to be an interesting year.”
Lakewood lost to Keystone in the first round and lost to Cuyahoga Heights before winning against Trinity to close out the tournament.
“We were ready for this (tournament), but it just happened that we played the worst volleyball that we have played all season,” Lakewood head coach Bojan Miocinovic said. “One of our starting middle (hitters) is injured, so we haven’t been playing actual roster this whole year.
“Our team chemistry is a little bit off, since we were practicing this summer in the camps. The preseason was one lineup, but the regular season – after the injury – has been a completely different lineup.”
Lakewood is playing in its first year in the West Shore Conference, and Miocinovic thinks there is a chance for his team to do well.
“Our goal is to finish in the top three (in the conference),” he said. “I think there are four teams that are really ahead of everyone else: Elyria Catholic, Avon, Rocky River and us.”
Rocky River Invitational results
Brookside d. Rocky River 25-20, 25-20
Brookside d. Trinity 25-13, 25-19
Cuyahoga Heights d. Lakewood 25-22, 25-20
Keystone d. Lakewood 22-25, 25-21, 27-25
Lakewood d. Trinity 26-24, 25-17
North Olmsted d. Trinity 25-14, 24-26, 25-18
North Olmsted d. Cuyahoga Heights 21-25, 25-16, 25-23
Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin d. Cuyahoga Heights 25-21, 25-22
Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin d. Keystone 25-15, 25-14
Rocky River d. North Olmsted 25-22, 17-25, 25-13
Rocky River d. Keystone 25-23, 25-11
Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin d. Brookside 25-19, 20-25, 25-14
Magnificat Tournament results
Brecksville d. Cincinnati Seton 25-20, 25-21
Holy Name d. St. Joseph Academy 25-21, 26-24
Lake Catholic d. Cincinnati Seton 25-10, 25-14
Magnificat d. Brecksville 25-11, 25-14
Magnificat d. Holy Name 25-9, 21-25, 25-19
Norwalk d. Cincinnati Seton 25-11, 25-13
Norwalk d. St. Joseph Academy 25-14, 25-17
Padua d. Lake Catholic 15-25, 25-20, 26-24
Padua d. Norwalk 25-22, 19-25, 25-14
St. Joseph Academy d. Brecksville 25-17, 25-20
Lake Catholic d. Holy Name 25-20, 25-22
Magnificat d. Padua 25-22, 13-25, 25-23