The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 22, 2013

Lakers felled by top seed in district

Seven-time defending champion Gilmour too strong

By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon

— Gilmour Academy was ranked ninth in the last Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association’s Division III poll. Pymatuning Valley got an up-close-and-personal look at just how good the Lancers can be in a 25-9, 25-8, 25-4 loss in a Division III district semifinal at LaBrae on Monday.

“They’re ranked in the state and they deserve to be ranked in the state,” PV coach Rob Wludyga said. “They don’t have any weak spots.”

Gilmour, seeded first and seven-time defending district champion of this tournament (the last 5 seasons at LaBrae and two previous at its former home, Berkshire), will play the winner between third-seeded Kirtland and second-seeded Cardinal for the district championship Wednesday at 7. The season comes to a close for the Lakers (15-10). It was the first time they had played in the district tournament since 2008.

“With only two seniors, to come out with 15 wins and make the district is a really nice year for this group of girls,” Wludyga said.

“Last week, in the first round (in a win against fourth-seeded Grand Valley), was as good as we played all season. For them to hit their peak at this moment, win two games to get to the district, you have to give the girls credit. They stepped up and had a decent run.”

The Monday curse continued for Wludyga’s crew. The Lakers are now 1-4 in Monday matches.

“I guess that’s a stat to throw out there,” Wludyga said. “I hate to try and look for a... no excuses. It’s just that tonight we didn’t play up to our level.”

Gilmour jumped on the Lakers early and didn’t let up.

“I don’t know how else to put it,” Wludyga said. “Early on in the first game, it was 5-4. We just got in a stretch where we couldn’t pass the ball and it snowballed from there. We tried to sub girls in and out just to mix things up, but we could never get any consistency with our passing.”

The Lakers simply just couldn’t get any kind of offense going and it started with how they received the Lancers’ serves.

“Our serve receive was not very good,” Wludyga said. “We prepared for it. All their girls hit a jump float. It wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before. We just didn’t execute.”

Not executing in that aspect of the game made attacking difficult for PV.

“We didn’t pass the ball at any point and we couldn’t get swings on the ball,” Wludyga said. “That was because we could never get into an offense with our passing. The bottom line is, we didn’t pass the ball well enough to get into our offense. That’s why we didn’t have many attacks.”

Kelsea Brown was the only Laker to record a kill. She had seven.

Pymatuning Valley had trouble getting touches at the net defensively.

“We didn’t have any blocks all night,” Wludyga said. “Generally, Kelsea and Megan (Stech) get four or five. (Gilmour) runs a quick offense. They make it tough for blockers to move along the net and their setters are really good. We just had a tough time.”

Needless to say, when a team struggles in one area, they’re going to struggle in all areas. Good serve receiving makes a good set possible, which leads to a good, hard swing on the ball. Getting a blockers to slow the ball down at the net allows the back row players to make a good pass.

“It’s the ultimate team sport,” Wludyga said. “It’s not like one person can take over. Everyone needs to put it together to make a run. It takes more than one person.

“We were just out of sync tonight.”           

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.