by Tom Utescher
Completely reversing the outcome of a mid-September volleyball match against defending Catholic Academies champion St. Basil, Mount St. Joseph swept the Panthers, 3-0, on their home court last Thursday afternoon.
The 25-13, 25-18, 25-18 victory raised the Magic’s record in the AACA to 6-2, with home matches against Villa Joseph Marie and league-leading Villa Maria Academy remaining on the regular-season schedule.
“We’re starting to gel now, and that took some time after losing five seniors,” revealed Mount head coach George Trabosh, referring to the players who graduated from the 2011 MSJ squad. “The kids who took their places were a little nervous in the beginning, but now they have their spots, and we’re starting to play with more consistency. When we get into our rhythm, we’re pretty good, and of course the key with any team is being able to maintain that.”
Mount senior hitter Maddy Good, a team co-captain along with setter Marissa McBride, contrasted last Thursday’s win with the loss to St. Basil exactly three weeks earlier.
“We came out more focused this time,” she said. “We knew coming here would be a big deal because there’s always a lot of energy in this gym, and there was even more with this being their Senior Day. I think overall our passing has really improved, and on offense we’ve been able to place the ball better and really start to terminate.”
At the outset of the match, sophomore middle Sarah Thomas notched a kill for the Mount, which then gave the point back on a serving error. A scoring tip by Thomas returned service to the Magic, who proceeded to surge ahead, 10-2.
It wasn’t until after Mount St. Joe went up 16-4 that St. Basil was able to score more than one point at a time. Along the way to building that advantage the Mounties marked down kills for Good and for junior outside hitters Moira Mulholland and Caroline Zakrzewski.
Late in the opening set, the Mounties got up 23-11 on a true (untouched) ace by freshman Alex Uzzo, whose sinking serve dropped right to the middle of the Panthers’ court after crossing the net. The teams traded points to close out the set at 25-13. Mulholland provided both points for the Magic, scoring on a hit off of two Basil blockers, and then chalking up set point with a well-placed tip.
The Panthers were defending league champs on their home court with a big win over the Mount already on the books, but throughout the rematch they seemed the more unsettled, jittery team. St. Basil was coming off of a 3-1 loss to visiting Villa Maria earlier in the week.
No opponent that knows anything about the St. Basil program prepares to play the Panthers without considering formidable junior middle Angela Evans. After the Magic’s initial engagement with the Jenkintown team this fall, Trabosh said “We made some line-up adjustments.
You can’t just let her load up; you have to try and make her pass.”
In agreement with those thoughts, Good stated, “When you play them you have to try and keep away from Angela, even when she’s in the back row. We concentrated on swinging to the places she’s not, and setting the ball to make her move on the block.”
Evans helped rally the hosts to make sure that the Mount did not build an insurmountable early lead in the second set. Midway through, the Panthers held a 14-13 edge, but Mount St. Joe secured a side-out to tie the set and then ran off another four points with Mulholland at the service line.
St. Basil came back to 17-18, but never regained the lead. After the tally seesawed to 19-18, a net violation gave the ball to the Magic and senior Dominique Pacitti served out the set for a 25-18 finish. Thomas stuffed the ball back on the Panthers for the first of these points, then St. Basil hit two balls long and a third into the net. A combined block by Thomas and McBride furnished set point for the Mount.
When the third round commenced, the Magic harkened back to the scenario of the opening set, and bolted to a significant early lead, 8-0. Thomas and Mulholland got cranked up for this one, with McBride providing some masterful sets.
“Marissa actually played defense on her club team,” Trabosh pointed out. “Then she was doing 1000 sets a day to get ready for the school season.”
The Panthers made some inroads and tightened the score to 19-15, but didn’t get any closer as the MSJ hitters continued to apply pressure up front. A Mulholland drive capped the victory for the visitors, 25-18.