ELYRIA — When a talented Division III team plays a talented Division I team in a non-conference match, the smaller school might adopt a something-to-prove attitude.
Elyria Catholic, the small school, instead took a nothing-to-lose stance Wednesday. Because of that, the Panthers didn’t lose.
Elyria Catholic, ranked No. 8 in Division III, had a surprisingly easy time against Avon Lake, beating the Shoregals 25-16, 25-22, 25-12.
“We knew we had nothing to lose,” Elyria Catholic libero Becca Pronesti said. “We wanted to be the underdog.”
“I didn’t want (players) to play tight, thinking this was such an important match,” Elyria Catholic coach Jen Lee said. “I wanted them to play relaxed and that was how they played.
“Our plan was to do three things. Our first plan was to serve aggressively and keep them out of system as much as possible. The second was to look for a mismatch — find their smallest blocker on each side and feed the ball to our hitter. The third was to tip the ball to a spot and always keep Avon Lake guessing. I told the girls if we did those three things we would win. All three were executed beautifully.”
On Lee’s first plan, the Panthers were particularly strong.
Elyria Catholic (16-3) served 10 aces and had only four bad serves. Pronesti was the serving star, delivering five aces.
“I went into a serving slump on Thursday,” Pronesti said. “I pounded and pounded in practice to get my serve back. It fires me up and I think it fires up my teammates when I serve well.”
Avon Lake (12-4) served only three aces and eight bad serves. The Shoregals were without starters Lauren Bakaitis and Taylor Leube because of illness.
“A tale of two cities, and two nights,” Avon Lake coach Dan Berkheimer said, referring to the Shoregals’ huge win over Southwestern Conference rival Amherst in a showdown for first place Tuesday night.
“I had a new lineup with two girls out,” Berkheimer said. “We were missing two girls who’re very valuable in serve receiving.
“EC is a well-disciplined team. We would like to see them on our best night but that didn’t happen. We didn’t play within ourselves. It wasn’t much like last night.”
The teams were tied at 12-all in Game 1 until the Panthers finished on a 13-4 run. Kit O’Shaughnessy had seven of her team-leading 11 kills in the opening game. Pronesti and Marie Vasitas had two aces each.
Christine Bohan, who had eight of her team-high 12 kills in Game 2, had the Shoregals ahead 21-19 until Elyria Catholic reeled off four in a row to take command. Bohan’s last kill of the game made the score 23-22 before a kill by Rachel Duffield and an Avon Lake hitting error ended it.
The Shoregals were never in the third game as the Panthers went ahead 7-2 and 12-4. Karissa McGrath, who had 10 kills and four block kills, had seven kills in the final game. O’Shaughnessy had two of her three aces in Game 3.
Duffield had seven kills and Abbey Flowers had five kills and a block kill for Elyria Catholic. Pronesti led the Panthers with 16 digs and Vasitas had 13 digs. Vasitas and O’Shaughnessy had 15 and 13 assists, respectively.
Katie Mihalic had eight kills and Isabelle Wagner had six kills for Avon Lake. Whitney Craigo had 20 assists and Kathleen Durisek led the Shoregals with 11 digs.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.