By KARL PEARSON
JEFFERSON - The vast gulf in tournament volleyball experience between the Jefferson Falcons and West Geauga was in stark evidence Tuesday night in the Division II district semifinals.
Jefferson went into the match at Falcon Gymnasium seeking it's 12th trip to the district championships. West Geauga was in the district tournament for the first time since 1989, when coach Tom Booth was 10 years old and nearly all of his players weren't even born.
Knowing that difference, Jefferson took full advantage to wipe out West Geauga, 25-8, 25-12, 25-16, in a manner perhaps even a little surprising to the top-seeded Falcons as they eliminated the fourth-seeded Wolverines.
Ahead for the Falcons (22-2) lies a district-championship rematch with second-seeded Lake Catholic at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, with the right to participate in the regional tournament at Stow-Munroe Falls High School on Nov. 1 as the prize. Jefferson is hoping to get to regional for the second straight year. Lake Catholic (21-3) earned it's spot in Thursday's match with a 25-19, 25-14, 25-15 victory in Tuesday's first match against third-seeded Edgewood.
"We knew they were a young team," Jefferson senior middle hitter Haley Kapferer, who had 10 points, nine ace spikes, five ace blocks and five ace dinks, said. "We knew they'd be feeling the emotions of this match, so we wanted to get them down early and keep them down."
"We wanted to start strong, get on top and stay there," senior libero Tara Aiman, who had nine points and three ace serves, said.
"I think a lot of what happened tonight was due to the level of experience of both teams," coach Don Palm said. "We knew they'd have plenty of nerves, so we wanted to come out with a lot of energy, seize control of the match and keep it.
"We wanted to put the pressure on them and play from the lead. I think we accomplished that."
The Falcons may have been calm, but they also wanted to key off of their excitement.
"I get so excited to play volleyball," junior Jamie Kapferer, who had a match-high 21 points, six ace spikes, two ace blocks and an ace dink, said. "I was definitely ready to play. There was no nervousness."
That was on the other side of the net. It showed up from the outset for the Wolverines (14-9) and the Falcons went for the jugular, building a lead as high as 22-6 in the first game.
Booth admitted his team was somewhat shellshocked.
"They're really big and they're really good," he said. "The big problem we had was passing. If you can't pass, you can't play volleyball. We did a little better in the second and third games, but...
"(The Wolverines' lack of district experience) had a lot to do with it. This is the first time West Geauga has been this far since 1989. Jefferson has so much experience and their fans here. That puts a lot of pressure on, and the first thing that goes when you're nervous is your passing."
The Falcons showed they weren't nervous at all. In the second game, they raced out to a 9-2 edge, then built the margin as high as 22-9 before finishing it off.
A lot of it had to do with Palm's emphasis on aggressive serving. Jamie Kapferer had an amazing 11 ace serves, while Amber Magda added three among 10 points, Aiman had three more, Haley Kapferer contributed two ace serves and Laney Dalsky had two more.
"I've tried to work really hard on my serving and serve a lot of different ways," Aiman said.
"I was trying to mix it up with my serving, to spread it around," Jamie Kapferer said.
"I think aggressive serving keeps the opponent off balance," Palm said. "I think we blocked well, served well and had good serve reception."
It worked in the third game, too. The Falcons were up as much as 19-12 and kept the margin there to finish it.
Caitlin Insana led West Geauga with nine points. Kathleen Gorjanc added seven points and four ace spikes.
Now, Jefferson can focus on a Lake Catholic team eager to turn the tables after last year's district final.
"We know Lake Catholic is going to come in ready to play," Haley Kapferer said. "It's going to be intense, but that's what volleyball's all about."
"I'm so excited for that match," Jamie Kapferer said. "I think both teams will be ready to play. We want it real bad."
Star Beacon Print Edition: 10/25/2006