New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
It has been more than six years since the Laurel High girls volleyball team has won a WPIAL playoff match.
The Lady Spartans had to work to make it happen last night, but happen it did. Laurel needed all five games to outlast Geibel Catholic 25-10, 25-27, 26-24, 20-25, 15-12 in a WPIAL Class A preliminary-round game at North Allegheny High School.
“It’s never easy,” Lady Spartans coach Joe Maslyk said. “This win means a lot to these girls. Mackenzie Mraz came up to me after the game with tears in her eyes and gave me a big hug, because she understands what this means.
“This is the first time in the six years that I’ve been with Laurel that we advanced past our first game. Even though it was a preliminary-round game, we wanted to make it past our first game in the playoffs and we did. It’s kind of a milestone for us — this was one of our goals.”
With the win, the Lady Spartans (12-6) earned the No. 15 seed and advanced to the first round against second-seeded Greensburg Central Catholic at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Freeport High.
“I’m hoping we’ll come out and play aggressive, so we’ll see how it turns out,” Maslyk said. “If we can move on, it’ll be even better. Geibel’s coach told me they have a big middle (hitter), so I’ll probably be pounding down balls on the girls in practice. Other than that, I don’t know anything about Greensburg. I haven’t seen them play. I’m assuming that they’re a well-rounded team.
“I’ve been saying ‘we can’t do anything about the opposing team. We can control the stuff on our side.’ We’ve been working on minimizing errors, which we had quite of few of today. All we can do is take care of the ball on our side.”
Laurel wasted little time in the pivotal fifth game, grabbing an 11-6 lead on the strength of the serving of Makayla Dupont and Allyson Kendall, but the Lady Gators battled back to 12-10 before Mraz and Ellen Shaffer sealed the victory with back-to-back kills.
“It’s good that we were able to pull out a tight match,” Maslyk said. “We’ve had issues in the past putting away teams. It was nice they came out and played strong to pull out the match.”
Laurel was solid in the first game, cruising to the 25-10 win.
“We came out strong,” Maslyk said. “For me, the key to the first game was we didn’t make any service errors nor did we make any passing errors.”
The Lady Spartans struggled making passes in the second game and in the process lost their momentum, losing 27-25 despite coming back from a 23-19 deficit behind the serving of Makenna Natale.
“In the second game, we had four passing errors in a row to start out,” Maslyk said. “That’s been our nemesis all season long. We get a little lazy and we don’t move our feet, so I have to light a fire under them and get them to move well. I’m not taking anything away from them, because Geibel served well. We just didn’t move well.
“Our intensity just dropped. That’s been a problem all year long, too. Once we lose our intensity, it’s been difficult to get back in it.”
Geibel dominated the early going of Game 3, taking an 18-13 lead before Callie Ritchie and Kristan Fedrizzi sparked the Lady Spartans to the 26-24 victory. Ritchie had a huge kill to stem the tide at 18-13 and another to put Laurel up 23-20, while Fedrizzi posted three crucial points to hand her teammates its first lead of the game.
“Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get our momentum back,” said Maslyk of Ritchie’s kill. “There were a couple key plays and we got our momentum back. From point one to point 25, we have to keep pushing.
“Luckily, these girls will fight. Even though we lost the second game, we came back to win the third game. I’m happy they were able to fight and pull this game out.”
Mraz led Laurel with a 15-point, 13-kill, eight-dig double-double, while Kendall added 22 digs and 19 points. Fedrizzi scored 14 points and Rachael Baker had nine kills, eight points and seven digs.
“We relied quite a bit on our three seniors,” Maslyk said of Baker, Kendall and Mraz. “Mackenzie played huge. She’s been highly motivated. She had a good all-around game. That helped us out quite a bit.”