Mount freshman Cassidy Abdalla (left) reaches up to defend against the efforts of Villa Maria’s Alaina Acchione while the “up” referee (background) squints along the net looking for a possible violation. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Mount freshman Cassidy Abdalla (left) reaches up to defend against the efforts of Villa Maria’s Alaina Acchione while the “up” referee (background) squints along the net looking for a possible violation. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Lady Luck was looking the other way last Thursday as host Mount St. Joseph Academy was preparing to face one of the toughest opponents on its volleyball schedule.

Perennial Catholic Academies League and District 1 power Villa Maria had arrived in the Mount’s gymnasium, and during warm-ups MSJ senior Sarah Thomas aggravated an existing injury and was told she’d have to sit out the match.

Out at Villa earlier in the month, the host Hurricanes had dispatched the Magic in three quick games, and now for the rematch between the teams the Mount was missing a six-foot middle blocker/hitter who is a team captain and a four-year starter.

The Mounties would go on to lose this match in three games, as well, but they played much better than they had in the first encounter with the ‘Canes. Digging themselves a deep hole early in the first set, the Magic opened with a 25-15 loss, but they dug in to extend each of the next two games to 25-20. A number of times when Villa appeared to get on a roll and appeared ready to power right through to game point, the Mounties scrapped back into contention.

Nevertheless, Villa raised its unblemished league record to 7-0, and improved to 8-1 overall (the lone loss came against Pope John Paul II High School of Royersford). The Magic leveled off at 6-6 overall, but remained above .500 in Catholic Academies play, at 4-3.

“We controlled the first ball a little better this time, and we served a little more aggressively,” remarked Mount coach George Trabosh. “We had some attacks and kept the ball in play. That’s been our main objective, to keep the ball in play until we can use our strengths to score.”

Overall, he said, “The season isn’t going exactly the way we want it to go, but we’re young, and our loses have come against real good teams.”

Villa started strong on Thursday and built up a 15-5 advantage in the first game. Sophomore Jacey Abdalla seemed to steady the Mount when she rotated to the service line, and the Magic drew a little closer, at 9-17. From there, the Hurricanes recaptured the momentum and won the segment by 10 points.

In game two the Mount led several times as the teams seesawed through the early minutes. With sophomore outside hitter Courtney Kasperski serving, the Magic scored back-to-back points to lead for the last time at 9-8. Villa then went ahead for good, but a few minutes later Mount St. Joe was still hanging in, down 14-16.

With the situation deteriorating as Villa drew away to 22-16, the hosts picked up a couple points as freshman Cassidy Abdalla and her sister Jacey each scored on hits that deflected sideways and down off the hands of Villa blockers. The Hurricanes brought up game point at 24-18, but the Magic stayed a alive a little longer.

The ‘Canes were called for a double hit, and then they were unable to return a serve by Jacey Abdalla. On the next sequence, at 24-20, a ball sent over by Villa was hit high up into a ceiling fixture by the Magic, who could not save the ball when it came down.

With Thomas temporarily out of the line-up, defensive specialist and fellow captain Monica DeIenno was the only senior in action for the Mount. The vacancy had been filled by the younger Abdalla, who played with poise as a ninth-grader thrust into a difficult situation.

Jacey Abdalla had been a full-time varsity player as a freshman last fall, and currently Coach Trabosh is pleased with the progress of some of her sophomore classmates, such as Kasperski, Siobhan McBride, and Sarah Thomas’ sister, Liz.

A scary thought for Villa Maria opponents is that the powerful Hurricanes only have one senior on their entire roster; southpaw setter/right side Katherine Miller will sign with Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University.

Villa Maria committed an error on a service return to give the Magic the first point of the third game, but the visitors recovered and over the next 10 minutes they engineered an 11-7 advantage.

Mount St. Joe countered with kills by junior Katie Strosser and by McBride, then a double hit by Villa made it a one-point game at 11-10. Unfortunately for the home fans, this was the only time the Magic notched three points in a row – not a good thing when you’re playing catch-up.

Over the next few minutes, Villa forged ahead by half-a-dozen points, receiving a powerful performance at the net from junior Kaleigh Oates. A hit by Cassidy Abdalla and a scoring block executed by her sister and Thomas closed the score up to 19-15, but Villa advanced from there to bring up match point at 24-19.

From the middle, the younger Abdalla tapped the ball past a Villa blocker for one more MSJ point, and then the subsequent serve by the Magic went out over the baseline to end the affair.

“We’re young and we’re going to make some errors,” Trabosh commented. “I’m happy with a lot of things we did. With Sarah being out, everyone picked up their game. They played well and they played as a group; they weren’t looking to one kingpin to hit the ball all the time.”

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