October 6th, 2011

Mercy Academy Takes Out SHA In Five Sets

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

Mercy Academy Takes Out SHA In Five Sets
photo by Paul Najjar

Crable, Crask lead Jaguars in five set thriller        

Traditional volleyball powers Sacred Heart Academy and Mercy Academy have earned their lofty positions among the top three teams in the state through similar paths.

Both play scrappy, never-give-up defense, are quick in transition and have a bevy of heavy hitters that relentlessly pound the ball all over the court.

Thursday night’s match at Mercy Academy between the Jaguars and the Valkyries featured such outstanding play from these two talent-laden teams that it took five sets, 213 total points and nearly two and half hours to complete. With the brothers Garvey on the sidelines, Eric as coach of Sacred Heart and Todd as the Mercy coach, the teams looked like mirror images in style of play, conditioning and grit.

Mercy ultimately persevered by a 3-2 score (22-25, 26-24, 20-25, 25-23, 15-8), but both teams put on a display that clearly shows why volleyball in the Louisville area is arguably the nation’s finest.

After nearly clipping nationally ranked Assumption on Tuesday night in another five set thriller, Mercy dug deep into their reserves and their resolve to pull away from Sacred Heart Thursday evening.

“I’m just proud of how we battle now,” said Jaguars coach Todd Garvey. “Even when things aren’t going our way we continue to battle. If you do that, more often than not you’re going to win. I think early in the year we’d get down and stay down, but we’re not doing that anymore and that’s a big step for this team.”

Battle they did and what a battle it was for every possession, every point. With Mercy taking a 13-6 lead in the first set, the Valkyries showed their mettle behind high flying outside hitter Megan Lipski. The senior captain and SUNY Buffalo commit with the strong all-around game registered 15 kills, 3 blocks and 4 service aces for the evening. She scored four of her team’s 10 points as they rallied to close the deficit to 17-16. After that, sophomore Ashley Askin took over and put down two kills of her own to give the Valkyries a 19-18 lead.

But after Jaguars senior Lauren Schneidtmiller tied the score at 21, Sacred Heart scored four of the next five points courtesy of three Mercy errors and a game ending block by junior Bridget McConnell.

Second set action was tighter than the first, as the teams traded points on eight straight possessions with their biggest leads coming at three points. Sacred Heart took a 19-16 lead on an ace serve from junior setter Amy Evans, but the Jaguars did not fold as they closed the gap to 19-18.

Again though, the Valkyries stretched their lead to three at 21-18, but the Mercy clawed back into the match on the strength of freshman middle blocker Lexie Hamrick’s block and kill (she had 12 blocks on the night) and senior Amanda Crask’s kill and block to take a 22-21 lead. A Lipski kill and an ace from junior Emily McDaniel put the Valkyries on the brink of a second set win, but Schneidtmiller and Crask bailed out the Jaguars with two timely kills to give them the 26-24 win.

“Our defense has been coming on lately,” Todd Garvey noted. “When we block well, our back row plays that much better. Tonight we blocked well and our back row defense was exceptional. Lexie had an outstanding evening. She’s a little behind in her experience, but she makes up for it with her height. She’s coming on good for us.”

The Jags were working quick sets to sophomore outside hitter Courtney Crable and Crable delivered time and again for her team. She recorded 20 kills on the evening, many of them coming on “shoot sets” that caught the Valkyries defense by surprise early in the match. Crable was a steady presence throughout, forcing the Sacred Heart defense to dedicate two blockers to her side, leaving Crask (12 kills) open on the weak side or sophomore middle blocker Ashley Witt open in the middle.

Lipski, Askin, McConnell and senior Connor Borgmeier combined to score 17 points for the Valkyries in the third set. With the score knotted at 19, the Valkyries went on a 6-1 run that featured two aces from junior Annie Adams and was punctuated by a McConnell kill and block to win 25-20.

The last two sets were played on instinct and emotion. Play was highlighted by desperate defensive saves, big blocks, and huge swings. Several points in the fourth set lasted longer than six rallies a side. At one point, the down official could be heard saying, “I’m tired just watching them.”

Crable’s five kills and a block paced the Jags attack in that fourth set. Tied at 23, she nailed her patented shoot set and then fellow sophomore Makenzie Montano sealed the win with an ace. Crable, who burst onto the local scene last year as an unheralded freshman, has battled nagging injuries all season. The 6’1”, long-armed outside hitter, who downed 28 kills against Assumption on Tuesday night, left the locker room with her shoulder wrapped in ice.

“I’m getting there,” Crable remarked with respect to her health. “I’m not totally 100%, but I’m almost there. We’ve practiced really hard and this was a big win for us. We’re building momentum with these last two games (against Assumption and SHA). Our seniors are amazing and they set a good example by how hard they play.”

With back to back five-set matches now behind them, the Jaguars look battle-tested and ready for a long run in the post-season.

“When we go five sets, I feel like we’re going to win,” stated Schneidtmiller. “We’re so used to going five sets, and while we feel the pressure, it just makes everyone that much more focused and hustling for everything. We’re in pretty good shape as a team and as this was our last home game, the seniors didn’t want to lose.”

The Jaguars close their season this Saturday in a morning/evening doubleheader. They play Cincinnati’s Mt. Notre Dame, 15-2 on the season, at 11am and then travel to No. 15 Greenwood for an evening match.

District play for both teams begins next week.


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