By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
Inconsistency can be overcome with a little heart and hard work, as Conneaut showed with a 21-25, 30-28, 25-19, 25-23 victory over Lakeside on Monday at Lakeside Gymnasium.
“It was crazy,” Conneaut coach Paul Stofan said. “(Lakeside) played hard. We just didn’t play consistently long enough. It was one of those matches we just kept grinding. We kept playing hard and working hard in the end. It was one of those close matches. We played hard and won.
“We needed one bad. It’s been a rough go. We’ve walked out of a lot of gyms not smiling. It’s nice to walk smiling.”
The Spartans (6-7) fell behind in the second game, 23-20, after an ace block from Aaliyah Allgood and two passing errors. A kill from Lexi Zappitelli and a Lakeside hitting error cut it to 23-22 before an Allgood kill had the Dragons on the verge of going up, two games to one.
Zappitelli had a kill and Lakeside was called for being in the net to knot the game at 24-24. The teams traded points before a Lakeside spiking error and a kill by Angie Zappitelli evened the match at one game apiece.
“I didn’t see (my players playing with confidence),” Potter said. “I know how they play. They were playing not to lose instead of going for the win. They didn’t want to lose. We’d set the ball and instead of hitting it, they’d tip. We have to get that killer mentality.”
Conneaut took an 8-1 lead to start the third game behind three kills and an ace block from Lexi Zappitelli, a kill each from Tori Simek and Angie Zappitelli and an ace serve from Emilee Bucci.
An ace block from Allgood had the Dragons (2-17, 0-7 in Premier Athletic Conference) within two, 15-13. A Lakeside spiking error, an ace block from Lexi Zappitelli and an ace serve from Angie Zappitelli extended the lead back to five, 18-13, and the Spartans were able close out the win.
“Game three was a perfect example,” Potter said. “We were down, 7-1. We came back and made it a tight game. If we play the match we’re supposed to, we don’t get down 7-1.
“I’m proud of the girls for fighting, but they have to step up and start strong, too.”
Lakeside took an 8-4 lead early in the fourth game after falling behind, 3-1. An ace tip from Sharisse Hunt and an ace block from Shelby Smith put the Dragons ahead, 5-4, and an ace serve from Kylie Orrenmaa made it 6-4. A Conneaut passing error and another ace serve from Orrenmaa extended the advantage to 8-4.
Consecutive kills from Dani Heinonen and Lexi Zappitelli had Conneaut within one, 16-15. The Dragons were able to push the lead up to 19-16 before being called for a lift to let the Spartans within two, 19-17. Megan Tessmer then provided just what Conneaut needed with back-to-back kills to tie the game, 19-19.
Lakeside committed a tipping error and a spiking error on consecutive plays and Conneaut had the advantage, 21-19.
“I told the girls they have to earn their victories,” Stofan said. “They can’t sit back and expect a team to give them the victories. I gave them a quote, too.
“I said, ‘You don’t have to have the lead if you have the heart to come from behind.’ I asked them how much heart they had. I was happy to get the win.”
The Dragons battled back, however. Conneaut was in the net, Emily Gehring had an ace tip and Hunt had two ace serves to put Lakeside in front, 23-21.
A spiking error by the Dragons an ace spike from Angie Zappitelli and an ace serve from Tessmer made it 24-23, Spartans. A Lakeside spiking error closed the match.
Lexi Zappitelli led the Spartans with 15 kills and three blocks, Tessmer had 5 kills, and three blocks and Angie Zappitelli had six kills.
It was a promising opening for the Dragons, who took a 5-1 lead to open the match behind a pair of kills from Hunt and an ace serve from Allgood.
Two ace serves from Lexi Zappitelli tied the game, put Conneaut ahead, 7-6, and ace spikes from Tessmer and Angie Zappitelli and an ace block from Tessmer had the Spartans ahead, 12-8.
Two kills from Hunt and several Conneaut errors made it 18-17 in favor of the Spartans. Alissa Patterson’s ace tip gave the Dragons the advantage against at 19-18. A kill from Hunt and several more Conneaut mistakes gave the Dragons a a win in the first game, leading to an emotional moment for a pair of Dragons heading into the second game.
“I thought I lost Emily there at the start of second game,” Potter said.
Potter had inserted freshman Taylor Gehring into the starting lineup for the second game, moving senior setter Emily Gehring to tears.
“I was talking to their grandpa and he said he’d like to see the two of them play together just one time,” Potter said. “We’re 2-17. It’s not always about volleyball. It’s about life, too, and this was a chance to show them that.
“It was, obviously, very important to the family.”
Hunt had 10 kills and two blocks, Paige Halsey had 16 digs and Emily Gehring had 12 assists, two blocks and nine digs to lead the Dragons.
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