April 19th, 2011
St. Xavier Gets Match Sweep Over Rocks
Gruner's 14 kills leads Tigers to volleyball victory
Playing their first in-town match of the season, the St. Xavier and Trinity High School volleyball teams both put forth valiant efforts on Tuesday, but it was the Tigers who were the better team on this night, sweeping the best-of-five match with a 3-0 (26-24, 25-21, 25-16) victory over the Shamrocks.
Eric Gruner and Nolan Mattingly led St. X and combined for 23 of their team's 30 total kills in the victory. Michael Woeste contributed three blocks and a pair of kills for the Tigers, who improved to 11-2 on the season.
"I'm happy," said St. Xavier Head Coach Ward Lotze. "We did what we needed to do, and once we got going we played a little smarter and with a little more emotion. Ideally, in a rivalry like this, I would like to see a little more emotion, but am pleased with the win."
Neither team led by more than three points in Game One and Trinity's Aaron King seemed to have the Rocks in position to pick up the opening game with his work at the net, but a thunderous kill by Gruner put St. X ahead 16-13 and Andrew Hayden closed out the game 26-24 with a booming spike of his own that gave his team the early advantage.
In Game Two, St. Xavier's Kevin Lally had to leave with an ankle injury that he sustained during the opening point, which allowed a pouncing Shamrocks team to take a quick 2-0 lead. But a block from Mattingly seemed to abruptly halt the Trinity momentum and helped spark a mini 3-1 run that tied the game at 6-6.
The two teams traded jabs and six tied scores until Hayden served his team to a 17-14 lead, forcing Shamrocks Head Coach Paul Diehl to take a timeout. The short break seemed to initially right the ship for the Rocks, but a silent leader stepped up for St. X in the place of the injured Lally.
"I was really pleased with the sophomore, Hunter Daniel," said Lotze. "He's got very little experience, but he did an outstanding job tonight. He had three blocks in the second game that really helped us through."
The Rocks did manage to pull within 21-19 on a jump serve ace from Nate Stein, but never got any closer, as St. X went on to close out the game 25-21.
In the third game, which would ultimately be the decisive 25 points for St. X, the Tigers used an 11-2 run to close things out after trailing 15-14. The Rocks were close in all three games, but could never withstand the late pushes of St. Xavier - a familiar occurrence that Lotze knows about all too well.
"We have a bad habit of letting teams hang around a little bit," said Lotze. "But we're fortunate to be talented enough to where we can finish a match."
Other key players in the St. X win were Cory O'Loughlin (one block and one kill), Daniel (five blocks and two kills), and Nick Fleming (two blocks, two kills, and one ace).
Trinity's Alec Fensterer and Jared Taylor were also key contributors for Diehl's squad, despite the loss. This was the first of two matches the Tigers and Rocks will play against one another this season.
Boys volleyball, which is not recognized as an officially-sanctioned sport in the state of Kentucky, has been gaining more local momentum of late. Lotze, who is in his first season as St. Xavier head coach, has an extensive coaching background, including a stint as St. X JV coach (2002-03), DuPont Manual girls (2003-07) where he won five district titles, and nine seasons with Louisville Fury - the longest running boys club volleyball program in the area.
With his and Diehl's efforts on their respective sidelines, combined with the dedication and consistent hard play of the student-athletes, Lotze believes they are gaining more interest and hope to become an official sport in the future.
"We want to do our best to expose more boys to (volleyball)," said Lotze. "Every time out should be a great match, even if the talent is up or the talent is down. With St. X and Trinity on the floor, it's always going to be exciting. The guys are going to go out and play hard every time out, which helps show other guys how great this game is. They all see their sisters and their girlfriends play, and it's a lot of fun. But when the guys play, it's a very, very powerful and very, very fast game, and we want to prove that every time out."
The Tigers will travel to Indiana this weekend for the Carmel Classic and then will host a rematch against Trinity in two weeks on May 3.