Coming into a Great Lakes Conference volleyball clash on Sept. 21, the Bay Rockets looked to continue their recent success and the host North Olmsted Eagles looked to make corrections after struggling in the weeks leading up.
Bay came in having won six of their past seven – five coming in-conference – and North Olmsted had dropped four of their past seven, with all of those losses coming to GLC foes.
The Rockets used lengthy scoring runs, tenacious play in all facets and took advantage of not only a depleted Eagles roster, but also the mistakes North Olmsted made on the court to win in straight sets (25-14, 25-12, 25-8).
“They really just have a passion for the game and get along on and off the court,” Bay coach Katie Seal said of what has been clicking for her team. “Team chemistry is huge for us. They want to spread the ball around and it really works out well for us.”
The Rockets’ first run came early in the first set, trailing 4-2, when they outscored the Eagles 13-1 to open up a 15-5 advantage. While North Olmsted continued to fight throughout the set, getting as close as seven points, a 5-1 run ultimately clinched the set for Bay.
Set No. 2 was much of the same as North Olmsted (9-5, 3-5 GLC) held with Bay (8-2, 6-2 GLC) early and was tied at 7-7. Immediately following that tie, Bay went on a 6-1 run to open up the 13-8 advantage it needed. The Rockets then weathered a small storm when North Olmsted clawed back to make it 13-11, and answered with a 12-1 run to close out the set.
Seal said having her team capitalize on these momentum swings and use those runs to extend lead is crucial in any match and, perhaps, more so when going up against a strong conference opponent.
“It’s huge. We do a lot of stuff in practice and talk about runs and making sure that, when we’re doing drills, that we’re not taking plays off,” Seal said. “I always say, I don’t care what the other team is doing, we have to focus on our game at all times and be crisp. That’s what we go out there and do.”
By the third set, the Rockets firmly controlled the energy of the game and wasted little time using two more runs to end the match. After quickly jumping ahead 3-0, North Olmsted brought itself back within one point at 5-4, but that was the closest the Eagles got for the remainder of the match.
A 9-2 run extended that one-point lead to a 14-6 advantage and, later, while ahead 16-8, Bay rattled off nine straight points to finish off the victory.
While the Rockets pride themselves on being a team that highlights the strengths of all their players and doesn’t have a lone star on the team, two players especially shone through against the Eagles.
Senior Avery Tenerowicz and sophomore Sophie Thomas were efficient in all facets of the game against Bay. Tenerowicz had 16 assists and five digs to go along with her two aces, while Sophie put away many of those assists, netting eight kills with seven digs and three aces.
“Our word of the day was intensity,” Tenerowicz said. “Building off of each other, we were able to connect really well and (Sophie) got a lot of kills. One of our mottos this year is, ‘One team, one dream.’ We have one dream and we just want to work together to achieve that.”
After squaring off against Fairview and Rocky River – and playing in a tournament – within the last week, Bay still has Westlake, Elyria Catholic and North Olmsted again coming up to round out the season.
“This win is just helping us get better and better,” Sophie said. “Last year, we didn’t play as well and didn’t win as much. This year, our goal is to keep up the winning.”
For the Eagles, coach Joe Marita isn’t going to let his players hang their heads after this loss. Even with several players out due to either injury or illness, however, he and his team aren’t making any excuses.
“We only had 10 of our usual 15 rostered players today but there’s really no excuse for it,” Marita said. “The competition has gotten better and we need to continue to rise to the occasion. We’re playing hard, we’re working hard but we have some things in the serve and pass game that we’re continuing to try and fix.”
He was nonetheless proud of his team’s fight in each set to not roll over while Bay was streaking. As the season now rolls on with Elyria Catholic, Normandy and Fairview coming up for the Eagles, Marita said this match against Bay will serve as an inflection point of sorts.
“We have to be able to control what we can control, whether it’s on the court or off” Marita said. “Just making sure that we’re in control of our first contact with the volleyball, our communication and our attitudes and making sure that we’re in control of the things on the court that we can take responsibility for.
“There’s a lot of things that happen on the other side of the net that are out of our control,” Marita added. “Things on our side of the net, we can and we have to own that and make it a little better.”
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