LINESVILLE — To the outside, Conneaut’s four-game loss to Cochranton on Thursday wouldn’t seem like that big of a deal. It was the just the second dual match of the season for the Eagles and new head coach Christine Krankota.
Not to mention, the Cardinals are no slouch. They’re the defending District 10 Class 1A champions.
But the Eagles took exception to that loss. And on Tuesday, Grove City paid for it.
Conneaut improved to 2-1 overall and 2-0 in Region 4 with a 25-13, 25-19, 25-22 sweep over Grove City. Grove City is now 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the region.
“We used our Sept. 5 game against Cochranton kind of as motivation,” Krankota said. “The girls were a little disappointed with how they played. They felt they could have played much better. They had three really strong days of practice after that and that carried over to (Tuesday).
“They moved a lot better as a unit. They played much better defensively and they kept the energy up for the most part. We have a few things that we want to nitpick with them. But I think we saw a great deal of improvement since last Thursday and that’s what we’re looking for.”
CASH looked like a well-oiled machine from the get-go against GC. The ladies in blue passed with precision. That allowed setter Emily Bortnick to feed whoever she wanted, which wound up being Taylor Kersnick a lot in the opening set. Why? Because the senior middle hitter couldn’t miss. Kersnick tallied seven of her 11 kills in the set.
And when the Eagles weren’t covering the floor on defense and setting up their potent offense, they were delivering from the service line. Conneaut had six aces in the first game.
“We had a chip on our shoulders,” Kersnick said. “We should have won that match against Cochranton in three sets. I think that really pushed us and made us go harder. We worked on defense all week and getting to our spots on tips and stuff and that really helped.”
The tone of the match did change, though, in the second set. But the response was pretty much the same.
In the second set, Grove City bolted out to a 5-0 lead. Conneaut tied it up at 5-5 with the help of four service aces from Caitlyn Wensel. From there, it went back-and-forth. Grove City did eventually take a three-point lead (18-15) on a block by Katie McDowell. A kill by Kersnick and back-to-back attacks from Emma Stevenson tied it back up at 18-18.
Conneaut closed out the set much like it started with three straight aces by Bortnick for the 25-19 win and the two-set advantage.
Game 3 was another game of cat and mouse. Grove City had a 9-6 lead. But no team led by more than two until consecutive kills by Cassidy Snider and another ace by Bortnick put CASH up 19-16. Conneaut never trailed again.
“Grove City played us tough,” Krankota said. “They were strong. They brought some balls up that we thought we put down. They went on stretches where they served tough.”
Conneaut just never let those things get it too far down.
“Volleyball is a game of momentum,” Krankota added. “And we’re trying to get them to realize, we can’t maintain the momentum for the entirety of a match; even an entirety of a set. It’s who can maintain it for the longest and who can do the most with it.”
Conneaut finished the match with four players tallying four kills or more, which Krankota stressed as being another key and area of improvement. Snider and Kersnick finished with 11 each. Stevenson had five and Karsyn Leach tallied four. Bortnick delivered 26 assists.
“Emily did a very good job spreading the ball around,” Krankota said. “And that’s important for us. We know who everyone is going to come in and concentrate on. For (Bortnick) to get five, six, seven girls involved in our attack (Tuesday), that was great. That builds our confidence.”
Also statistically for CASH, Snider added five aces and 11 digs. Bortnick finished with 26 assists, 15 digs and five aces. Rylee Jones had 12 digs.
For Grove City, McDowell led the way with seven kills. Ryan Gubba had 10 assists and Mackenzie Haggart had six assists.