Toronto finds bright spot in rough first year as a member of the EOAC

KILL SHOT — Toronto’s Kendal Thomas attempts a kill while Gina Fogle watches past Leetonia’s Brianna Luttmers on Tuesday. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

TORONTO — The Toronto volleyball team’s first year in the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference has been a learning experience for the young squad.

The Red Knights added a bright spot to the inaugural campaign by sweeping conference opponent Leetonia 25-13, 25-16, 25-10 Tuesday night.

“We’ve taken our lumps this year,” Toronto coach Cathie Thomas said. “It’s a tough conference. It’s very competitive. It’s more competitive than the OVAC definitely. We’re playing teams that are very seasoned and experienced. It’s just really been a challenge for us.”

The experience the Red Knights (3-15, 2-12 in the EOAC) are gaining this year, according to Thomas, will pay dividends down the road.

“We’re youth laden,” she said. “Out of the nine girls that dress varsity, three are seniors. We’ve got three freshman that play a good bit and three sophomores. We just have to get more experience and continue to grow. We’re trying to step up to the challenge of it and try our best so we can come into it even stronger next year.”

Leetonia (0-18, 0-12) has not had the season it hoped for either, and also has a young squad that is learning on the fly.

“I start probably five or six sophomores and throw freshmen in. They are getting it slowly but surely,” Leetonia coach Leanna Yeager said. “We just get mental lapses. Our record doesn’t show how hard our girls have been working to improve.”

In the match, the Bears hung with Toronto early in all three sets, but the Red Knights eventually got going and pulled away.

In the first set, it was a 13-1 Toronto run broken up by a Leetonia timeout that failed to slow down the Red Knights’ run that took the score from a 10-6 Toronto advantage to a 23-7 lead. Leetonia mounted a late push, but the Red Knights closed it out for a 25-13 win and a 1-0 match lead.

The second set was even closer with the Bears even holding the lead a couple of times before a 7-2 run put Toronto in control. It closed out a 2-0 lead in the match with a 9-2 run to take the second set 25-16.

In the third set, Leetonia again held an early lead, but Toronto again got on a roll and carried it to the sweep. The Red Knights took control with a 6-0 run that put them on top 8-4, pulled further ahead with a 15-1 run and closed out the match with a 25-10 third set win.

“We came out sluggish tonight,” Thomas said. “We’ve been playing a lot better and playing with a quicker pace. We served well tonight. Early in the season we struggled with serving, and we’ve spent more time in practice working on that, so it’s come a long way.”

For Toronto, Jenna Leasure had eight aces, five kills and two digs. Jamie Anderson tallied seven aces, four digs and two kills. Gina Fogle added three aces, five digs and two kills.

For Leetonia, Brianna Luttmers had four aces, seven assists and four digs. Emma Kemp had two kills, five digs and an ace.

Leetonia is back in action Thursday against Columbiana at home. Toronto hosts Weir tonight for the Red Knight’s senior night.