LAGRANGE — When you stop returning the serve you are going to lose volleyball matches.
Firelands learned that lesson Tuesday night.
Keystone reeled off eight straight points on junior Brooke Trego’s serve in the decisive fifth set and cruised to an anticlimactic 15-4 win to close out a match that had razor-thin margins most of the night. The Wildcats won 21-25, 29-27, 25-27, 25-20, 15-4.
“Keystone serve-received very well tonight, we had serve receive issues,” Falcons coach Diane Price said. “It broke down and that has been our biggest problem all year long. Tonight’s game came down to who was going to make the most mistakes.
“I think we were pretty well-matched, but they did a nice job. They serve-received well and were able to shut a couple of my big hitters down. They earned it.”
After returning just 58 percent of Firelands’ serves in their first-set loss, the Wildcats (8-2, 5-0 Patriot Athletic Conference) were able to turn things around. They were at 85 percent in the second set, 78 percent in the third and 90 percent in the fourth.
Keystone coach Bud Trego thought his team’s service game on both sides made the difference after the first set.
“After that (first game) it seemed like everything started going and we were able to get into our offense,” he said. “Our serving was big, too. We served really well tonight, especially in that last game.”
Senior Jenna Quillen had what Trego called her best varsity match. She had 15 kills and five blocks to control the net. Senior Darcy Irish, who returned to action after a week following an ankle injury, was a difference-maker as well.
“Tonight (Quillen) was on,” Trego said. “She’s a senior leader for us and we go to her a lot. Darcy, too. Thank goodness we got Darcy back today. She rolled her ankle about a week ago and tonight was her first night back.”
Price thought Irish’s return was critical for the Wildcats as well.
“Darcy puts up a great block,” she said. “My one middle and one outside (hitters) are young, so them working to get around a big, great block like that … they had a few problems. Darcy, even if she’s not 100 percent, is a great offensive player as well. And they’re quick on the outside.”
Brooke Trego, who handles the setting duties for Keystone, was nearly perfect. She connected on 192 of 194 sets and finished with 42 assists. Serving, she had a team-high 21 points with a match-high nine aces.
“I just focused on hitting to the open spots and to the weaker players,” she said.
Morgan Myers led Keystone with 30 digs while Emily Peters added 14 kills.
Paige O’Connell led Firelands (4-2, 3-2) with 15 kills and four blocks while Cassandra Morrissette added 23 digs and 12 kills. Kaitlyn Michener added 20 digs while Mikayla Waibom led the way with 41 assists.
“It was there for the taking and we wanted it, believe me, we wanted it,” Price said. “We wanted to tie them in the conference, then keep going. We keep pushing, keep going I think we’ll still make some noise.”
Mike Perry at 329-7135 or email@example.com.