ELYRIA — The Pioneers knew they were in for a tough test Tuesday night against No. 13-ranked North Royalton. Elyria played well during the matchup, but it still wasn’t enough as the Bears came away with a 25-23, 25-20, 25-19 win in a Northeast Ohio Conference matchup.
“Elyria is always tough on us. They always play good defense, they can jump out of the gym and swing incredibly hard,” North Royalton (11-1, 4-1 NOC) coach Kristin Hubbell said. “We are smaller than we have ever been and we just have to be faster than anyone we play.”
The Pioneers (4-5, 2-2) had their jumping shoes on, getting plenty of good swings on North Royalton, but the Bears gave them problems at the net despite having just one player listed at 6-foot tall on the roster.
The blocking of North Royalton kept the Pioneers from putting together long runs, with a four-point service run by Sybil Roseboro late in the first game the longest of the match.
“Royalton is a speedy team so your approach has to be different than playing someone like Solon,” Elyria coach Jodie Johnson said. “We knew what they were going to bring to the table, but we let it happen too many times.
“There were runs that happened that created a gap for us in each of the games. We
just couldn’t do enough to close the gaps.”
The Bears put together runs at just the right time during each of the three games to create the gaps that Johnson mentioned.
In the opening game, the run came at the end after Roseboro served for her four points — on a Bears net violation, a combo block-kill from Emily Gonzalez and Mariah Johnson and a pair of kills by Tyra Darden to tie the score at 21.
North Royalton ran off the next three on a Holly Hetman tip, an Elyria hitting error and a net violation for a 24-21 Bears lead that turned into the 25-23 finish on a sparkling crush by the Bears’ Katie Baird (11 kills) to end the game.
North Royalton’s run in the second game came with the score tied at 10. Rachel Latosky ran off four points on a Vickie Osowski kill, a setting error and a pair of kills by Baird for a 14-10 lead.
Alexis Middlebrooks and Darden did their best to keep the Pioneers in it, combining for 11 kills and a block-kill in the second game to cut the lead to 20-19, but it wasn’t enough as the Bears pulled away late.
“That is a really scrappy team, they just don’t give up on anything,” Darden said. “It can really be frustrating when they keep getting a hand on the ball when we hit it well.”
North Royalton did not waste any time jumping out to a 10-5 lead in the third game. The lead stayed around five, until the Pioneers cut it to 19-17 on three Darden service points — a hitting error, an ace and a Mariah Johnson kill.
But Elyria only scored two points the rest of the way, as Baird picked up four kills in the final six points the Bears scored in their River Division victory.
“This is a cut-throat conference and every team presents itself different, so you have to be able to play differently every night,” Jodie Johnson said. “We are very athletic, but you still have to develop the game of volleyball.
“Once we develop our game and the girls understand what plays we need to make, we’ll transform into a different team. We can’t rely on our athleticism alone in this league. We have to develop into volleyball players.”
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
North Royalton 25-25-25, Elyria 23-20-19
HITTING: (NR) Melissa Kozik 12 kills, Katie Baird 11 kills; (E) Tyra Darden 15 kills,
Alexis Middlebrooks 11 kills
SETTING: (E) Emily Gonzalez 31 assists
SERVING: (NR) Holly Hetman 11 points (3 aces); (E) Darden 8 points (2 aces), Middlebrooks 7 points
DIGS: (NR) Allison Baird 22; (E) Darden 14, Gonzalez 13, Sybil Roseboro 11
BLOCKS: (E) Darden 2, Mariah Johnson 2