ELYRIA — Elyria Catholic coach Jennifer Lee yelled. She joked. She pleaded. She laughed.
She just couldn’t get through to the Panthers.
Elyria Catholic, two nights after playing one of its best matches, provided little resistance as Independence swept it away in straight sets, 25-15, 25-11 and 25-14, to win the Division III Elyria district volleyball championship.
“I tried every method,” she said. “I’m a big John Wooden fan and I tried to pull every card out of my pocket. I tried to pump them up. I tried to get them to go one point at a time. Nothing worked. This was one of our poorest performances. It was like sixth-grade ball.”
While the Panthers (17-6) were struggling to get into a rhythm, the Blue Devils (19-6) put together a near-perfect performance.
While the Panthers’ serve-receive percentage was less than 40, Independence had just two serve-receive errors all match.
While Elyria Catholic was struggling at the service line, chalking up six service errors, the Blue Devils served effectively, getting seven aces.
The Panthers had 22 kills as a team. Independence junior outside hitter Megan Screptock had 19 on her own. Panthers senior setter Marie Vasitas handed out 16 assists. Blue Devils sophomore setter Hallie Zumack had 30.
“Since I took this job I have worked on ball control because that’s the only way you’re going to win the game … ball control,” Independence coach Megan Osysko said .” You have to get the ball to the setter and let her distribute it. It was picture perfect for us tonight.
“We stuck to the basics. From the beginning of the season I have preached how we have to take care of our side and everything else will come. Tonight that worked and our hitters were able to put the ball down.”
The Panthers led 5-3 in the first game before being outscored 22-10 the rest of the way.
Elyria Catholic had a 4-2 lead in Game 2 before the Blue Devils went on a 23-7 run.
EC had a 2-0 lead in the third before Independence took control. A 10-2 Blue Devils run put the game out of reach.
“It was the strangest thing I’ve seen and I don’t know how that happened,” Lee said. “I have no idea how we came from the way we played the other night against Cuyahoga Heights to this.
“Our serve-receive was terrible. We never got to feed our offense, never got to feed our hitters. That right there was the answer. With a big headline. Serve-receive was the difference. If you can’t get the ball up to the net to the setter so she can feed the hitters and run the offense you aren’t going to have a chance.”
EC sophomore Josie Carandang, who had five kills and nine digs, was surprised at how the Panthers responded to playing for the district title.
“We tried a new rotation to match up with them, so it took a little for us to get into that,” she said. “But there was just something wrong tonight. I don’t know what it was but we were just off. We tried our best and kept trying to get pumped up, but it just wasn’t there.”
Despite the difficult night, Lee thinks the Panthers’ future is bright.
“We had some great seniors this season that we’re going to miss, but I think our next two years are going to be very promising,” she said. “I think we’re going to be very, very strong. I have some great defensive players coming up and a nice freshman coming in that should be able to start varsity. We look pretty good moving forward.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.