By Lisa Byers
Meadville went into Thursday night’s Region 4 girls volleyball showdown with Conneaut with at least two agendas.
The Bulldogs needed a win to keep its slim hopes of a District 10 Class AA playoff berth alive, and it wanted to play the role of the spoiler against its arch rival, which currently sits in a tie for first place in Region 4 with Corry.
And after the opening set, it looked like the Bulldogs were on their way to accomplishing both feats. The next three sets didn’t go quite as well.
Meadville won Game 1 25-23, but Conneaut dominated the next three (25-14, 25-8, 25-14) en route to the four-set victory.
“I don’t know,” Meadville coach Tammy Webber said. “It’s something we have done all season long. I can’t figure it out. They can’t figure it out.
“It’s like they look at themselves and say, ‘We can’t be in this position.’ They just doubt themselves. It’s been an ongoing battle here. And it makes it even more frustrating when you see how well you can play.”
The Bulldogs looked like one of the premier volleyball teams in the district in the first set and on Conneaut’s home court in front of the Eagles’ dedicated and boisterous student fan section.
In the first meeting between MASH and CASH earlier this season, the Eagles served Meadville off the court, collecting a total of 17 service aces, in a 25-10, 25-10, 25-13 win. But in Game 1, it was Meadville delivering at the service line.
Sophomore libero Alysha Kelyman struck first for the Bulldogs with back-to-back aces during a 5-0 run that gave Meadville a 10-5 lead. Five rotations later it was Cadi McCoy’s turn. She, too, served back-to-back aces, giving Meadville it’s biggest lead of the game at 15-9.
Meadville was also solid at the net and covered a ton of ground on defense.
“We had it figured out,” Webber said. “We knew what we were doing. The gameplan was going the way it should be. We were passing. We were serving tough.”
And then …
Conneaut started working its way back late in the first set and eventually knotted it up at 23-23. Meadville collected itself to put up the final two points for the 25-23 win, but the Eagles’ late rally was just a warm up.
The Eagles took leads of 7-1, 12-1 and 8-1 in the next three sets, respectively, and didn’t look back.
“We were not serving well and we were not passing well,” Conneaut coach Tim Schleicher said of the first set. “We talked about that throughout the whole first game. We cleaned that up big time in Games 2, 3 and 4.
“They’re a tough serving team, and we didn’t handle that well.”
Also in those final three sets, Conneaut outside hitter Challen Litwiler became unstoppable. The senior had a match-best 20 kills on the night, 17 of which came in the last three games. Litwiler also added 13 digs and four blocks on the night.
Kristen Baker tallied 14 kills and 10 digs. Kim Litwin had 15 digs, while Kristen Laird and Nicole Pavolko had seven and six digs, respectively. Aliya Hutman chipped in with 32 assists and eight digs. Angie Vickers added five kills and four blocks.
For the Bulldogs, Jordan Lynn finished with nine kills, followed by McCoy with six. Katie Newman had 26 assists and 11 digs. Kelyman finished with three service aces and 10 digs. Ellen Mook had four blocks.
Meadville fell to 6-7 overall and 5-4 in Region 4. Conneaut improved to 10-1 overall and 8-1 in the region.