By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
An effective pitcher mixes his pitches and changes speeds and locations from delivery to delivery with the idea that he will never give the hitter any clue as to what is coming next.
The Lakeview volleyball team does the same thing with the idea that the team it plays won’t know what’s coming next. Which is exactly how the Bulldogs beat Jefferson, 25-15, 25-20, 25-10, Tuesday at Falcon Gymnasium.
“Our approach is the reverse of the manner of most teams,” Lakeview coach Scott Taylor said. “A lot of people hit and get blocked, hit and get blocked, hit and get blocked then tip. Or they miss, miss, miss then tip. We tip early to establish the fact we’re going to tip, then swing away once they start moving in.
“It gets the defense moving and maybe the next they’ll anticipate the tip, then we swing away. It’s like a changeup.”
“They have really high volleyball IQs,” Jefferson coach Don Palm said. “They understand situations really well. When it’s set to a spot, they know how to get a point without hitting it hard. That comes with experience.
“We were always a half a step behind what was happening on the court.”
That approach hurt the Falcons (10-3, 4-1 in All-American Conference), who lacked the aggression necessary to topple the Bulldogs’ approach.
“(The lack of aggression hurt us), especially against a team that’s not going to make many mistakes and has a lot of experience under its belt,” Palm said. “We’ve got to learn to play to win and not play not to lose. We were passive throughout most of the match.
“In matches like this, we talked about expecting to win and not hoping to win. If you’re playing to just be in the match, you’re just happy being in it. (Jefferson PA announcer) Mary Hostetler put it a good way. Ohio State University expects to win, the Browns hope to win.”
With the win, Lakeview (8-3, 3-0) took the driver’s seat in the race for the AAC title. For most of the Falcons, it was the first important match they’d played in.
“It’s tough,” Palm said. “A lot of the girls haven’t been put in that situation. It’s a new experience, since we’re a younger team, to play in big important matches. It’s something we just have to learn and grow from.
“The great thing is we are going to learn and grow from this and get better as a team. The good thing about playing a team that’s a little better than you is it shows you things you can improve upon.”
Serving was an area that drastically hurt the Falcons on two levels. The Bulldogs made few mistakes in that area, making life difficult on the Jefferson defenders. On the other side, the Falcons had trouble causing the same problems for the Bulldogs.
“I think that hurt them a little bit tonight,” Taylor said. “I don’t know how many service errors we made, but I don’t think we made many. Late in the third game and in the second, they couldn’t set up an offense.”
“We knew we had to win the serve battle,” Palm said. “I don’t think we did that. (The Bulldogs) didn’t make many service errors. They served more aggressively than we did. We didn’t do ourselves any favors. When we’d start to get things going, we’d make unforced errors.”
After a kill from Calli Schmitt gave Lakeview a 7-5 lead in the first game, the Bulldogs slowly took the advantage to 13-9. A kill and an ace tip from Schmitt and a kill from Lauren Cassassa made it 18-9.
In the second game, a kill from Bailey Beckwith had the score tied, 9-9, for the Falcons. But a pair of Falcon miscues gave Lakeview the lead, 11-9. Three kills and an ace block from Schmitt had the Bulldogs up, 16-10.
Two ace spikes from Alyssa Irons, two more from Emily DeGeorge and two more from Beckwith weren’t enough to get Jefferson over the hump.
“I’m very happy with Emily,” Palm said. “She really went after the volleyball tonight. I felt she was our most aggressive girl. Even though she’s a young girl, she’s got a lot of experience through JO. She’s a player with a lot of potential.
“I thought a lot of girls had bright moments, we just couldn’t string them together.”
Schmitt carried the Bulldogs through the third game with six kills, an ace tip and two ace blocks. She finished the night with 17 kills and five blocks.
“Calli was big last night, too,” Taylor said. “She’s starting to come on. We flipped a few switches and she’s started to blossom.”
The Bulldogs took a 7-1 advantage in the game and led, 13-9, when Taylor sent reserve Hannah Rogers in to serve. She took the score to 24-9 before Irons stopped the run with an ace block.
DeGeorge led the Falcons with 12 aces on 33-of-37 spiking, Beckwith had five aces on 15-of-18 spiking and Irons added three aces on 11-of-13 spiking.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.