Saturday, September 23, 2017 Elyria 66°


Regional volleyball: Frosh a force for Amherst


 AMHERST — Deme Morales didn’t do what was expected of her this year.
Morales, Amherst’s freshman outside hitter, was expected to play an all-around game this fall, but that was not to be because of a back injury suffered at a volleyball camp in July.
She was also expected to be, well, a freshman.
It’s not often that a ninth-grader joining a team that went 19-6 and lost only one senior and no starters from the previous season becomes a vital part of the team’s attack, but Morales has exceeded expectations in that regard.
“She has been priceless — far more than we anticipated,” Amherst coach Laurie Cogan said. “We knew she was good, but we couldn’t have seen her being this good this fast.”
Cogan added that her freshman isn’t merely a budding superstar, but the final piece the Comets needed in their puzzle.
“She filled a major weakness,” Cogan said, adding that Morales turned Amherst from a second-place team in both the Southwestern Conference and the Midview District to a co-champion of the SWC and a district winner for the first time since 2003.
“It was nice that we were all back, and it was nice to get that extra force,” said Olivia Sliman, a junior defensive specialist. “We needed that.”
Morales, Sliman and their teammates will try to keep the season going when they play Notre Dame Academy of Toledo, champ of the Perrysburg District, tonight at Norwalk High School.
Morales has 240 kills this season. She comes in when All-Ohio outside hitter Courtney Jarvis finds herself on the back row. Morales had a sensational district tournament with 40 kills in eight games against Medina and Olmsted Falls.
Her statistics could’ve included more than kills, but Morales’ previously mentioned back injury prevented her from playing defense. The injury was not catastrophic.
Morales was given a stiff, heavy plastic brace for her back — one that would never have allowed her to have the great vertical leap that has made her such a force in the Comets’ attack — and that she’d need it for six months. The coaching staff sought a second opinion.
The second doctor didn’t believe it was a stress fracture, so the heavy brace was ditched for a softer, lighter one that allows the 5-foot-6 freshman to use her jumping ability to the fullest.
Morales has blended with the already budding team chemistry.
"I feel like one of them," Morales said. "It's hard to explain, but they've just made me a part of this team."
“She’s never not worked hard,” senior blocker Bridget Beury said. “Sometimes she tells us in practice that she’s the only one who’s working hard, and that motivates us to work as hard as she is.”
It seems pretty bold for a freshman to scold her older, more experienced peers. Morales, however, never stops proving there’s very little that’s typical about her.

WHAT: Division I regional semifinals
WHO: Amherst (23-2) vs. Notre Dame Academy (22-3)
WHERE: Norwalk High School, 350 Shady Lane Drive, Norwalk
WHEN: Tonight, 5:30
AT STAKE: Berth in regional championship match Saturday, 2 p.m., against the winner of tonight’s other semifinal match between Magnificat and Bowling Green.
DIRECTIONS: Interstate 80-90 west to exit 118 (U.S. 250). Turn right onto 250. Follow 250 (East League Street) 6.4 miles. Turn left on Whittlesey Avenue. Turn right onto Shady Lane Drive
COACH: Laurie Cogan
CONFERENCE: Southwestern (13-1, first)
TOURNAMENT RESULTS: Defeated Southview, 25-11, 25-14, 25-12; Medina, 26-24, 25-23, 25-22; Olmsted Falls,
24-26, 25-21, 31-29, 25-18.
COACH: Scott Mattera, 3rd season
CONFERENCE: Toledo City League (11-1, first)
TOURNAMENT RESULTS: Defeated Southview, 25-11, 25-14, 25-12; Medina, 26-24, 25-23, 25-22; Olmsted Falls,
24-26, 25-21, 31-29, 25-18.
Notre Dame Academy ended St. Ursula’s seven-year reign of both Perrysburg District championships and Toledo City League championships. This is the first district championship in NDA history.
* Scott Mattera was an assistant coach at St. Ursula before taking the head coaching job at NDA.
* The only losses NDA suffered this season were to Assumption (Louisville, Ky.), Toledo Central Catholic and Ursuline Academy (Cincinnati).
* Jordan Goad, the NDA setter, is the daughter of three-time Ohio high school wrestling champion Greg Goad (Swanton and Oak Harbor).
* Amherst is on a 22-match winning streak. NDA has won its last 11 matches.
* NDA and Amherst played each other in a preseason match in July. Amherst won one game, 25-13. The Eagles won the second game, 25-23.

Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7137 or

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