STEUBENVILLE - Strong starts and strong finishes were the recipe for success for the Catholic Central volleyball team against Jefferson County-rival Buckeye Local Wednesday.
The Crusaders built double-digit leads in all three games and were able to withstand rallies by the Panthers which led to a sweep, 25-12, 25-19, 25-11.
"It was a good day inside the Central gym," second-year Catholic Central (4-2) head coach Sherri Barber said.
AT THE NET — Catholic Central’s Ashlynne Daley spikes the ball against the defensive efforts of Buckeye Local’s Kierstyn Czuchran during Wednesday’s match. The host Crusaders won in three. Looking on is Central’s Megan Lloyd and the Panthers’ Kylie Lovinski.
-- Mike Mathison
The match was the middle one for the Panthers as Buckeye Local is in the middle of three-straight matches in three-straight days.
"We got our first win of the season last night against a mediocre team, and maybe our heads were bigger than they should have been," first-year Buckeye Local (1-5) head coach Jeremy Millard said. "This is the second time we played a team with big hitters, and we falter with that.
"We have a lot to learn about playing as a team and supporting one another. That is something I knew we had to work on. We have worked on it, but it is something we still need to work on. I'm still looking for six players to give me 100 percent no matter where they are on the court. We are still rotating players to see where they fit best.
"It was a tough loss. Central is a good team. They are as deep with hitters as we are with players. They have a fine defense, and they were quicker. Their fundamentals were better. The fundamentals of the game is something we still have to work on. Our subs have to be ready to fill the holes."
For Catholic Central, Brittany Bertoia tallied three blocks, four kills, four digs, five points and two aces; Anne Fischer recorded three kills, two digs, four aces and 18 points; and Megan Lloyd collected nine assists, four kills, eight points and two aces.
Fran Capaldi finished with 13 assists, nine points, two kills and one ace; Suzy Thibault delivered three kills, four blocks, five sets and nine points; and Ashlynne Daley added two kills, four digs, one ace and five points.
Michaela Torrence ended up with one block, five kills, one ace and six points, and Samm Simmons produced three blocks, three kills and three digs.
"We work a lot on serving," Barber said. "In our two losses, we served poorly. We are serving 90-95 percent as a team in every game.
"We are playing better as a whole. We want to get better every week, and we want to get better every game. We have improved. We want to improve every day.
"My philosophy is serving, passing and defense. This year, we want them to play offense. We had some nice hitters last year, but we did not play offense. Playing offense is not something I emphasized. We had some great hitters last year, and we played not to lose instead of playing to win.
"This year, our motto is play to win. We want to play to win and not to lose."
For Buckeye Local, Amanda Barbosa scored four points to go along with two aces, one assist and four digs; Lexus Fedorko finished with 11 points, three aces and one dig; and Kierstyn Czuchran contributed two points, one kill and 14 digs.
Becky Zeroski chipped in with one point, one ace and three digs, Adrienne Yanssens delivered one point and six digs and Kala Petrella tallied one point and two digs.
Bailee Morrocco collected one point and one ace, Kylie Lovinski added one kill and two digs and Rachael Zeroski ended up with two digs.
"We knew they had good hitters," Millard said. "We just have to adjust better. This was the second or third time playing a team like that, and we have had a difficult time with it. We did tonight."
In Game 1, the Crusaders jumped out to a 6-2 lead, forcing Millard to call a timeout. They built the lead to 19-5 before another timeout. The Panthers closed to 22-12 before Central took the win.
The Crusaders built a 14-2 advantage in Game 2, but once again the Panthers scratched and clawed their way back into the match.
"That is the way we roll," Millard said. "I use this phrase a lot, but we are like a flash in the pan. When we play well, it is beautiful. It is beautiful when we get 100 percent from everybody.
"When something bad happens, our spark tends to go out, and it goes out for a while. It takes us a long time to recover, whether it is because the other team gets a kill or we miss a kill. That is something we have to work on."
The visitors cut their deficit to 14-6 and to 15-8 before nearly coming all the way back at 18-15, but that was as close as Buckeye Local got as Catholic Central ended on another spurt to take a 2-0 lead.
"We go into a little lull," Barber said. "If there are a couple of bad plays or a couple of bad calls, we tend to get sidetracked. They lose their intensity easily. We have to keep them zoned in.
"We lost to Linsly last night. There were a couple of bad calls in that match. They're girls. Their minds drift. We have to keep them focused."
Buckeye Local scored the first point in Game 3. It was the first time the Panthers led in the match, and after scoring the second point of the game Buckeye Local had its biggest advantage of the match at 2-0.
Eventually, the game was tied at 7, and the Crusaders began to pull away. Catholic Central took a 10-7 advantage forcing the Panthers to once again call timeout. The Crusaders maintained their control after the timeout as Catholic Central built a 20-8 advantage.
The Panthers scored the next two points, but it was not enough as Catholic Central went to finish off the game and the match.
"They beat Harrison Central last night in three sets," Barber said. "They have a new coach. We have never played them before. We have scrimmaged them, but we haven't played them. Their coach does a nice job with them. He has done a lot with them. It is good to see. They are going to keep getting better. They are going to be a good team.
"We keep getting better. I lost all but one of my starters from last year. We have come together as a team. We will be fine. There is no drama. They are all very good sports. Eleven girls played tonight. It was a total team effort."
Buckeye Local is scheduled to play tonight at home against Edison. Catholic Central's next match is Monday at home against river rival Weir.
"It was nice to be home," Barber said. "It was nice to be on our beautiful new floor. This was our first home match. We have very few matches at home. We have five home matches and 11 away from home."