Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
September 20, 2018
Three games in three days wasn’t too much for the Kenston volleyball team to handle last week, as the Lady Bombers came out victorious against a pair of tough non-league foes and then forced a two-horse race in the Western Reserve Conference.
The Kenston girls battled through a 29-27 second set to sweep Normandy, 3-0, last Tuesday, went the distance in a roller-coaster affair that ended with a fifth-set victory, 15-11, against North Royalton last Wednesday and then swept WRC foe Eastlake North, 3-0, on Thursday.
Not only did the Lady Bombers improve to 12-1, their best start since a 23-2 campaign in 2010, but they improved to 4-0 in the WRC and handed North its first league loss to set up a two-team race between themselves and defending champion Riverside (8-3, 4-0) for the banner.
“That was insane,” Kenston 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter Allison Kosinski said about three victories on three consecutive days. “First of all, North Royalton is an amazing team. And I think our momentum and energy really helped us, because we had the mindset, ‘We are not losing,’ because it’s going to be a hard week, but we are not going to give up and we are just going to stay motivated.
“So, our motivation and energy really pushed us to do well in our games. Even when someone doesn’t have a good play, we just pick each other back up and say, ‘OK, we’ve got this. Let’s go.’ I think that’s really helped us through the season.”
Specifically against North Royalton, Kosinski and fellow outside hitter Rachel Apshago, a 5-foot-8 junior, led the kills department with 14 putdowns apiece, while 5-foot-4 senior right-side hitter Izzy Gabram had 11 kills, 5-foot-11 junior middle Abby Bednar had eight kills and four blocks and 5-foot-8 setter Marcie Oglesbee had seven kills – providing an all-inclusive attack.
After losing the first set, 25-23, the Kenston girls evened the match with a pivotal 26-24 win in the second set.
“That was definitely huge,” said senior libero Anna Rini, who is a co-captain with Kosinski. “It changed the entire momentum of the game, because it got us out of our heads and made us have a positive outlook and motivated us to work harder. I definitely think our ability to work together, even if we were down one set, helps us to stay positive to work through each game.”
Rini got busy working on a team-high 13 digs that match, while setter Oglesbee had 12 digs and junior defensive specialist Amy Kotara collected eight.
Kenston rode its momentum with a 25-10 win in the third set, but the roller coaster continued with a 25-13 fourth set going in North Royalton’s favor.
“I think it was like a mental aspect at that point,” Rini said. “We had some good motivation after the second game, winning 26-24, and then coming out of the third, when we blew them out, we were a little bit lax after that. We didn’t expect as hard of a comeback from them in the fourth set. But in the fifth set, I’m glad we were able to pull it all together, and I never doubted my teammates.”
The Lady Bombers put North Royalton away, 15-11, in the fifth set in what Kosinski and Rini said was the biggest win of the season for their team. It was Kenston’s only five-setter through 14 matches.
“Our serving and our passing came through for us in that fifth set,” Kosinski said. “We kept getting nervous about our serving, but once we started placing them where they needed to go, it helped us create more opportunities to set up our offense and throw their defense off. And then, once we kind of got on top of their serving, then our passes got better, and, of course, Marcie was amazing at setting to allow our hitters to put it down.”
Oglesbee finished with 54 assists, while Gabram served three aces, Bednar had two and Oglesbee and Rini had one apiece.
The next day, the Lady Bombers fought through the first set, 25-23, of their league match against North but then cruised with 25-20 and 25-16 in the next two sets for the sweep. Kosinski had nine kills, while Bednar and Apshago had eight apiece on .353 and .316 hitting percentages, respectively. Gabram had 12 digs, Rini had 10 and Kotara had eight.
“I definitely think it’s important for us to win the WRC title this year,” Rini said. “So, going into every conference game with a positive attitude and knowing that you’re just going to put it all out on the floor, you can just hope for the best, and, if you work hard for it, good things will come your way.”
Returning to the court this week, the Lady Bombers had their nine-game win streak snapped during a 3-0 loss, 25-17, 25-20, 25-16, against Division II state No. 12-ranked Lake Catholic, a program that’s coming off back-to-back state final-four appearance, during a non-league battle on Monday.
The Lady Cougars had 34 kills, eight blocks and 12 aces.
“I think we were nervous, because that was a game we were looking forward to, because we knew it was going to be a challenge,” Kosinski said. “I think what we took away was that we just have to keep our head in the game and keep trying to push forward and try new things, because I feel like we kind of got stuck with different plays. I think we’ve got to change it up all the time and we’ve got to keep the energy up, keep looking forward and don’t give up.”
Up next, the Lady Bombers will resume WRC action on the road against Brush at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, before returning home to host Division II No. 3-ranked Holy Name, according to the coaches poll, at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Kenston also will host defending WRC champion Riverside at 5 p.m. Oct. 2.
“That’s our biggest competition, and it’s our senior night,” Kosinski said of Riverside. “So, that’ll be a very interesting game. I’m really excited and looking forward to it. But it’ll be a tough match, because they’re the team we’re always watching out for and are pretty much preparing the whole season to play against.”
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