There were a few mild ones. Midview, a team hammered by graduation, pulled off a win over deep and experienced Lorain. Vermilion upended defending West Shore Conference champion Bay, although Bay is another club that saw a lot of its 2011 talent wearing caps and gowns last May.
The big one came Wednesday in the annual midweek battle between non-conference foes Keystone and Elyria Catholic.
Keystone won it in five games and dropped EC from the list of unbeaten teams.
The Wildcats, like Midview and Bay, lost the majority of their players from last season. Keystone is one of the few clubs in the county that did not return its starting setter (2012 is proving to be a great year for that position).
Yet, according to the Wildcats’ rookie coach, Bud Trego, it was a switch in setting assignments that enabled Keystone to rally from being beaten badly in the first two games to winning the next three.
“Surprising, considering the way we’d been playing lately,” Trego said after the victory. “This is the team I thought I was going have.”
Maybe in the spiritual sense it was the team he figured he’d be coaching, but in the strategic sense it most definitely was not. Keystone was running a 6-2 offense, meaning Trego was using two setters, Brooke Trego and Morgan Myers, on the floor at the same time.
Brooke Trego, the coach’s daughter, was benched for Game 1 for a minor team violation. Myers did all the setting and Keystone lost, 25-14. Trego came back for the second game, and the Wildcats ran their normal 6-2 and lost 25-16.
Coach Trego tried something new. Myers went to libero. Brooke Trego was the lone setter. Libero is a position no Keystone player plays, according to the roster.
They have one now. Things began to click. The Wildcats easily won the third game. Game 4 had EC up 23-18, but Keystone tied the score twice, forced overtime and won it 27-25. The ’Cats dominated the final game.
The ’Cats are 5-5. They were 15-8 in 2012. Their schedule is far from easy. They have two matches left with Patriot Athletic Conference teams that beat them, and they still have to play second-place Buckeye twice. They have tough non-conference matches against Field and Midview.
But it’ll be interesting to see how the new offense fares in the final half of the season.
While Keystone has been struggling a bit so far, a new team has made a play to join the powerhouse club in the PAC. That team is Firelands.
The Falcons are 5-1. Experience (four starters back) is a big reason, but there is something else that has helped Firelands this year.
“We’ve stepped up our blocking,” said Diane Price, the Falcons’ coach. “I tell the girls that when our blocking is on we’re a tough team to beat. When blocking breaks down is when we have issues.”
Firelands isn’t a real tall team, so good blocking isn’t automatic. Lots of work on technique has kept the team busy, according to Price.
The middle hitters have led the way. Paige O’Connell has 16 solo blocks and 15 assists. Becky Myers has 15 solos and 15 assists. They get help from the right-side hitters Amanda Spears and Erica Rosmarin.
Firelands topped Keystone on Sept. 6. It had been a long time since the Falcons got the better of the Wildcats. What Firelands must do now to fully establish its credibility is beat Brookside (now on a winning streak of 25 consecutive PAC matches) or Buckeye, the dominant teams of the past couple of seasons.
A couple of good matches outside of conference play are going on tonight. Avon Lake is at Huron at and Clearview comes to Elyria Catholic.
Huron is Division III, but don’t let that fool you. The Tigers are 6-1 and their only loss has been to Findlay — whose only loss came against Toledo St. Ursula — in four games. Huron is the only team other that St. Ursula and Notre Dame Academy to win a game from Findlay.
The Tigers have been led by a pair of Sydneys — defensive specialist Bragg (5.7 digs per game) and setter Grendow (5.5 assists per game in a 6-2 offense).
Avon Lake should be helped by the return of outside hitter Katie Mihalic, who saw her first play of the season Thursday against Olmsted Falls. Mihalic, last year’s leading hitter, had been sidelined by a sprained ankle.
Clearview will see its first opponent outside of the PAC. A victory would be tremendous for the Clippers, who were 14-2 in conference play in 2011 but just 3-4 in non-conference matches. The Clippers were 2-3 against non-conference foes with losing records last season.