Rocky River's Emily Stanciu goes for a kill against the Elyria Catholic Panthers Thursday night at home. Stanciu finished with 12 kills in the Pirates' four-set homecoming win.

The Elyria Catholic volleyball team made nothing easy for the Rocky River Pirates last Thursday night.

Even as the Pirates were celebrating senior night, the intensity on the court was as high as ever as the Panthers seemingly contested every point. However, on their home court, the Pirates powerfully responded after dropping the first set to come away with a 25-27, 25-17, 25-17, 28-26 victory.

“It’s huge and it’s so exciting for the future,” Rocky River coach Karlee Bruck said of her team’s effort against the Panthers. “The future as in the future this year for tournaments and the future for the program in general. Mental toughness is something you can’t coach, tenacity is something you can’t coach and the fact that these girls have it and embrace it and try to do whatever they can every single time. It’s incredible.”

For a team with just three seniors, the Pirates (13-7, 10-4 Great Lakes Conference) were led mostly by a sophomore (Paige Waite) and a junior (Emily Slyman) against Elyria Catholic (8-12, 7-7 GLC). Waite tied for the lead in kills (15) along with junior Austoria Miller. Senior Emily Stanciu was a close second with 12.

Many of those kills came off assists from an always-ready Slyman, who racked up 22 assists. Sophomore Taylor Spies led the Pirates with 29. After the game, Bruck sang the praises of not only her seniors but younger players like Waite and Slyman.

“With how much effort and hard work (Waite) put in this offseason, she’s like a sponge,” Bruck said. “She asks questions and you can tell she’s glaring right into you and embracing and soaking in every word that you say and then she goes out there and applies that. I have a couple of other girls who do that too.”

After a tightly-contested first set, the Pirates pulled away with two hard-fought sets in which the Panthers were never out of striking distance. The fourth set, however, was as tight as they come in high school volleyball. Neither team was ever more than four points away from the other and after the 25th point came and went, neither was going to give an inch.

“They know when to turn it on,” Elyria Catholic coach Barb Schuckman said. “And that’s the good thing about them, especially going into the end of the season and going into the postseason. Now if we could maintain that the whole time, that’s what we need to do. And they can, they just need to do that.”

Senior Julia Allegretto and junior Sydney Yanak led the Panthers with 10 kills each. Grace Schuckman also had four aces for the Panthers. Elyria Catholic will wrap up the regular season on the road against Valley Forge tomorrow night.

The Pirates will play their final playoff tuneup at Fairview High School tomorrow night as well. From the start of this season, Bruck is thrilled with how her team has progressed and is hopeful for what they will be able to accomplish in the playoffs.

“This is a big win for us for many reasons,” Bruck said. “We had Normany on Monday and we had Bay on Tuesday and we took both teams to five sets and lost. I wasn’t quite sure what today was going to bring but going back to that tenacity, the girls aren’t going to give up and I love that about them. Going into tournament time, that mentality and that confidence and having those wins under our belt is hopefully going to continue to push us forward.”

Contact this reporter at jkopanski@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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