• Dr. Herpy

Lady Bomber spikers swing to 3-0 start

Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
August 30, 2018
Tony Lange

A back-half program in recent years, the Kenston volleyball team got out to its first 3-0 start since 2010 after defeating Berea Midpark, 3-1, on Saturday at the Lady Bombers’ home floor in Bainbridge.

The Kenston spikers lost the opening set, 25-20, before going on to run the table through an all-around defensive effort and the dominant net play of 5-foot-11 junior middle Abby Bednar in the latter three frames, 25-16, 25-18, 25-18.

One of three returning varsity hitters, Bednar finished the afternoon with 17 kills and just three errors on 26 swings for a 0.538 hitting percentage, not to mention four blocks.

“She’s just starting to find her own little groove going there. She just pounds the ball down,” Kenston second-year head coach Jim Moore said. “Abby is very technically sound. She has a beautiful approach. She swings nice. She’s constantly on top of the ball, which enables her to put it down.”

The Lady Bombers returned to the hardwood last week after a 15-9 campaign last season, including an 8-2 mark in the Western Reserve Conference, that concluded with a 3-1 loss against Solon in the Division I district semifinals.

With a front-loaded non-conference schedule in years past, going up against juggernauts like Toledo St. Ursula Academy, Brunswick, North Royalton, Gilmour Academy, Walsh Jesuit and Lake Catholic right off the bat, the Kenston girls usually take their punches early before rolling in league play.

But, despite only returning four girls with significant varsity experience from a year ago, the 2018 Lady Bombers cruised in 3-0 sweeps against Aurora and WRC foe Madison last Tuesday and Thursday, before dropping their first set of the season during that 3-1 match victory against Berea-Midpark on Saturday.

“The first one, I think they surprised us,” Moore said. “They had a couple of really good, big hitters there. And I think it being Saturday, I don’t want to make any excuses, but my girls were all at the Friday night football game, and I don’t think they were awake yet. And then, after that first game, I think they woke up and sort of realized, ‘Hey, Berea’s pretty tough.’ And then they clicked it up a notch.”

Also pounding the floor, 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter and team captain Allison Kosinski and 5-foot-8 junior outside hitter Rachel Apshago collected 13 kills apiece. They also had double-digit digs and serve receives.

With the graduation of defensive specialists Sydney Koenig and Zoe Curtis, coach Moore said he’s counting on outside hitters Kosinski and Apshago to become more all-around players this season.

“I’m starting to play them a little more back row, and they’re doing very, very good back there,” he said. “But I’ve also got two girls who can sub for them at any time – Amy Kotara and Lydia Obman, both juniors.”

Against Berea, Kotara recorded nine digs and eight serve receives, while Obman had 14 serve receives and five aces. Both defensive specialists are varsity rookies.

Returning as the backbone of the back row, however, is 5-foot-1 senior libero Anna Rini, a team captain, who posted 15 digs and 17 serve receives on Saturday.

“Anna reads the defense well and shouts to the other girls where we want them to go, because we have a floating defense,” Moore said. “Sometimes we move her up, sometimes we move her back depending on what the other team presents us. And, right now, my defense is stepping up just fantastically. I’ve got three, four defensive girls there who are just picking up everything everywhere.”

At the net, middle Bednar, outside Apshago and 5-foot-10 sophomore middle Gillian Oakes had four blocks and one block assist apiece against Berea-Midpark. Overall, Kenston tallied 18 blocks and 74 digs in that four-set match.

A varsity newcomer, Oakes also posted six kills on a 0.294 hitting percentage and collected two aces and three digs.

“She’s learning the middle very rapidly,” Moore said. “For a sophomore, she’s doing an excellent job. She is quick, and she’s able to read the defense a little bit better than she did last year. There was a question whether she was going to play right-side or middle for me, but my 6-foot freshman, Julia Sell, twisted her ankle a couple weeks ago, and she’s not ready to fill in yet.”

While Kenston graduated 6-foot-1 lefty right-side hitter Victoria Jepson, now at Lehigh, the Lady Bombers aren’t blessed with that kind of experienced height on this year’s team.

Meanwhile, 5-foot-8 junior setter Marcie Oglesbee and 5-foot-4 senior Izzy Gabram can both play some on the right side.

Gabram collected three kills, eight digs and 13 serve receives against Berea-Midpark, while Oglesbee tallied 49 assists, nine digs, four aces, two blocks and three kills in the Lady Bombers’ five-one system.

“My setter, Marcie, she’s really starting to come into her own,” Moore said. “Marcie’s got a lot of energy in her. She can hit right-side also – she’s a pretty decent hitter – but right now I’m trying to convert her from a hitting mode to the setter mode.

“We have color schemes where I have about six or seven colors she’ll call off, and that signifies all the hitters what they’re going to be fed. So, she’s been controlling that very nicely. And she ran off about six or seven points on a service run Saturday. I generally start the match off with her.”

The Lady Bombers were scheduled to take on Walsh Jesuit on Wednesday evening, before a quick turnaround to host WRC foe Chardon at 5 p.m. Thursday.

The big focus toward claiming a league banner is getting past Riverside, which defeated Kenston during 3-1 and 3-2 battles last season. And the Lady Bombers want to advance to at least the district finals in the postseason, Moore said.

Visit The Chagrin Valley Times to view their photo.