ELYRIA — The Elyria Catholic volleyball team cast out an old demon Tuesday night, and the result is a return trip to the Division III district title game.
The Panthers fell to Cuyahoga Heights in four games last season in the district final, and were out for revenge.
Behind the steady net play of junior Caitlin Rock and the return of junior outside hitter Maryssa Kellick, Elyria Catholic was able to dispatch the Redskins in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22 and 25-19.
They will play Independence in the district championship game Thursday at 7 p.m.
“We had a lot of fear coming into this match, I’m not going to hide that fact,” Elyria Catholic coach Jennifer Lee said. “We had a very bad ending to our season last year. I told the girls to stay composed … to remain comfortable and relaxed so we could play our game.
“I didn’t want them too pumped up, I wanted them to take care of business. I wanted them to look for their open shots, know when to hit, know when to tip and to be smart. They did a great job of getting the job done.”
The Panthers (17-6) welcomed Kellick back after she missed 12 matches with a knee injury. If she had any rust it didn’t show.
Kellick was the Panthers’ top server, scoring 17 points with four aces. She also had six kills and a pair of solo blocks.
In the first set, Kellick took the ball for her first serve with the Panthers trailing 5-4. Four aces and nine serves later the Panthers led, 13-5.
“It was great timing for her to be back and to be healthy,” Lee said of Kellick. “She was a key in our win today because I gave her one job. I told her I didn’t care if she hit the ball at all tonight … that she could get all her aggression out on the service line. Her job was to stop No. 14.”
No. 14 was senior Lucy Marver, the Redskins’ leading hitter. Though Merver had 14 kills, Kellick and sophomore Josie Carandang pestered her at the net all match.
“They were focused and did a lot of nice things,” Cuyahoga Heights coach Tom Buron said. “They played mistake-free and any time they got momentum they would do a really nice job. Our girls played hard and I’m proud of what they did, but Elyria Catholic came ready to play. When they needed to they came up with big plays.”
Rock led the Panthers with 11 kills while senior Marie Vasitas led the way with 19 assists. Becca Pronesti had nine digs for Elyria Catholic while junior Allie Kaminski pitched in with eight points.
“This feels amazing,” Rock said. “We stayed focused and played our game. We came in ready to fight for that win, and that’s what we did. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. There’s not a lot to change at this point.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.