Volleyball is a game of swings.
Sometimes it’s a momentum swing. Other times it’s the powerful swings of one of more players’ arms.
St. Joseph’s Academy relied on both to notch a 3-2 victory over Mount Carmel Academy in a rematch of last year’s Division I final Thursday night in front of a loud capacity crowd at SJA.
After her squad dropped the fourth set 25-19, SJA coach Sivi Miller implored her team to get the momentum back. And it worked. The Redstickers raced out to a 14-5 lead in the decisive fifth set and won 15-8.
The SJA student section stormed the court. There was loud music and a long celebration following the latest edition of a long rivalry between the two all girls Catholic schools.
“I wanted to win that fourth set, but Mount Carmel played well,” Miller said. “We let them get a big gap and our girls lost some momentum. So we started that last set with our backs against the wall. I challenged them to get the momentum back.
“What I told them is that when two great teams are playing each other the team that comes out on top is the one that makes the least amount of errors. We had to stop our unforced errors.
“This is a great match early in the season and it’s a great match to win. But we play them again next week.”
SJA (4-0) remains unbeaten, while MCA (8-1) lost for the first time. SJA won by scores of 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 19-25 and 15-8.
It wasn’t exactly like last year when St. Joseph’s notched a 15-11 fifth-set win to claim a state title. There were some early-season miscues by both teams. Both teams believe they will be get better, which is a likely a scary thought for other Division I teams.
Though it wasn’t perfect, it was pulsating and at times emotional as the momentum shifted from side to side. Those who came to see some of the state’s premier hitters weren’t disappointed.
Mount Carmel’s Katie Kampen finished with 21 kills, 24 digs and 4 blocks. Kristen Nuss added 24 digs and 13 kills, while Jillian Clark had 41 assists.
St. Joseph’s quadruple threat of Madison Daigle, Katherine Young, Sydney Davis and Hanna Rovira also was impressive. Daigle finished with 16 blocks, 15 kills and 8 digs.
Young (15 kills, 11 digs), Davis (10 kills 22 digs, 5 aces) and Rovira (11 kills, 7 blocks) all played key roles. Elise Gasperecz (51 assists, 6 blocks) and libero Melanie Miller (21 digs) also played their roles.
MCA raced out to a 7-1 lead in the first set. The Cubs extended the lead to 11-4. SJA cut the margin one point twice later in the set at 19-18 and 20-19. Eventually Kampen’s kill down the line in front of the SJA bench sealed a 25-21 win.
The next two sets belonged to the Redstickers. The teams traded serving errors and hitting errors at one point in the second set.
An ace by Gasperecz gave SJA its first two-point cushion at 8-6 in the second set. The home team didn’t trail again, but MCA kept it close. A kill and a block by Daigle helped seal a 25-20 win.
Mount Carmel led early in the third set. An ace by Daigle helped SJA claim the lead. The set was tied several times. A crosscourt kill by Young made it 21-19 on the way to a 25-21 victory. Kampen set a torrid pace for Mount Carmel in the fourth set with a couple of aces and early kills. MCA led 6-2 and 13-6 en route to the 25-19 win.
Rovira had a key block at the beginning of the fifth set. A few MCA hitting errors gave SJA the chance to build on its lead. Davis and Daigle also contributed kills along the way.
“It was a great match, but you know they were better than us at the net tonight,” Mount Carmel coach April Hagadone said. “We’re still working to get better. We’ve yet to play our best match.
“It’s a great game to build on probably for both teams. The best thing about it is we’re going to play again next weekend in a tournament. And the following weekend. We’ll see each other three times in September, again in October and hopefully in November (at the state tournament).”
Even as both coaches called the two-hour contest a starting point, the players relived the high points and the emotion.
“We knew we had to go out and give it everything we had,” Daigle said. “We knew it wasn’t going to come easy. We’ve got a lot of things to do get better.”
Rovira added, “This is really the first game that has been this close (this season). I thought we worked really well to come together as a team and persevere through it.”