HENRIETTA TWP. — Nothing was going to distract Brookside on Tuesday night at Firelands. Not a delayed bus. Not a late start. Nothing.
The Cardinals started and finished fast in knocking off the Falcons in three games — 25-11, 25-22, 25-9 — to put the Cardinals comfortably in the driver’s seat for a second straight Patriot Athletic Conference crown. Brookside (11-1) is unbeaten in PAC play at 8-0 after the first half of the conference schedule, while Firelands (8-3) is two games back at 6-2.
“It took a long time to get here,” said senior setter Kady Whitsel, whose father Ted is Brookside’s coach. “Our bus was an hour and a half late. We thought we wouldn’t get started till 9 o’clock. We thought we might be a little tired. We had a slow start (Monday) against Wellington. We knew we had to come out and play hard.”
“They were very focused,” Ted Whitsel said. “Firelands is in our division and they only had one loss (coming in). It meant a lot. It meant a lot to both teams.”
The Cardinals didn’t disappoint. Whitsel started at the service line and combined with Shelby Kerstetter to put an exclamation point on the outset of the match. Whitsel ran off seven points, including an ace. Kerstetter had four kills and a block kill. Firelands added to its problems with a hitting error and the Cardinals were off and flying. By the time the match was in the books, Whitsel had scored 20 points with five aces.
“You have to play hard every game,” said Kerstetter, who led the hitting with 20 kills and four block kills. “Every single one counts. You have to come out like that at the beginning. It was 7-0. You have to come out like that against good teams.”
Kerstetter wasn’t alone. Gaby Woods and Tyller Holley each had nine kills and both came up with a couple block kills along the way, but it was Whitsel that really set the tone.
She was simply outstanding as Brookside’s setter and although the passing was very good, there were times when she had to dive and crawl to put the ball up. She was a perfect 75-of-75 with 35 assists. On defense, she and libero Lisa Campo had 13 digs each.
“That’s my job,” Whitsel said with a shrug. “We’re up by two (games) in the conference. We knew we could have it again this year — 16-0 hopefully like last year. I think the first and third games were the best we’ve played this year.
“The second game was a little rough. We had some serve-receive errors but we picked it right back up in the third game.”
Firelands’ coach Diane Price couldn’t disagree.
“(Brookside) came out with all guns firing,” said Price. “We didn’t come out firing at all. We never got a chance to get into what we like to do. We talked about it before the match that we couldn’t have unforced errors, we can’t make mistakes. Brookside does not make mistakes.
“We got a run going for a little bit — we started blocking and doing everything we needed to do but then it just broke down again.”
Firelands played very well in Game 2, but simply couldn’t pull away. Senior Erika Ruffner had some key kills as did juniors Casey Morrissette and Amanda Spears, but after the Falcons took a 17-16 lead, Kerstetter beat their block, Celina Rock and Holley combined on a block kill and Woods came through with successive kills to put the Cards up 20-17. Game 3 was much like the first game only this time Whitsel’s service run came late — extending a modest 12-8 advantage to 22-8 before the Falcons broke serve.
“Kady’s serve is tough to deal with,” Ted Whitsel said. “A lot of teams are having trouble with that serve.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.