February 10, 2011
CHS ready for chapter three
Gets third shot at Homer after knocking off Bears
The rivalry will have a third chapter this season.
The eighth-seeded Cortland High volleyball team made sure of that Wednesday evening with a 31-29, 25-19, 16-25, 25-21 win over visiting No. 9 Chittenango at Shafer Gym in a Section 3 Class A first-round contest.
Next up for the Purple Tigers (9-7) is a quarterfinal date with top-seeded neighbor Homer Central (17-1) — at least some of whose players were in attendance Tuesday — in a 1 p.m. start on Saturday on the Trojans’ home floor.
“We want to play them again. We played two disappointing matches against them this season,” said CHS Cheri Olson, whose Purple Tigers lost in three games twice this winter to the two-time OHSL Freedom Division champions. “They’re a good team, and there’s a reason they were undefeated in the league this season. But it’s one thing to play well and lose, and another not to play well and lose, and it was the latter for us both times.
“If we play like we did tonight it will be a fight to the finish, and fun to watch. It’s too bad we’re not seeing them in the semifinals or finals, but any time Cortland and Homer play there won’t be an empty seat.”
“We all definitely hit a lot harder tonight,” said Cortland senior middle blocker Kelly Knauerhase, who led the way in that regard with 23 kills, to go along with four point blocks and five digs. “We wanted to win so bad. We want to see Homer again and beat them.”
It looked in the first set like Wednesday’s contest would be another one that went the distance, as the two teams battled through five lead changes and 13 ties, including at 25 through 29, as neither could score two in a row to put it away. The Bears led 29-28 and had serve, but junior outside hitter Maddie Dorward’s kill made it 29-29 before Knauerhase had a point block and combined with fellow senior Kaylee Gebhardt, an outside hitter, for another one to account for for the winning points.
“The first game huge, and a little stressful,” Olson said with a laugh. “I was proud of the girls. There have been times this year when a game like that would have gone to the other team. But they fought for it. In practice the last couple of days, they been working on fighting and finishing, and when it was now or never, they did it.”
“IT WOULD HAVE been nice to pull that one out,” said Chittenango coach Amy (Ricottilli) Simmons, who graduated from Cortland High in 1988 and later coached a CHS eighth-grade team that included Olson.
“Throughout the match, we couldn’t keep the momentum long enough. They have a couple of really good hitters,” added Simmons, referring to Knauerhase and Gebhardt. “They were also quick to the middle, and we couldn’t get our blocks up. My girls served well, though, and mixed it up.
“Cortland played a lot better tonight than either time I’d seen them this season,” she added, each team having beat the other on the road during the regular season.
The second set started out similarly, tied at three through seven, before, with Dorward serving, the hosts scored seven points in a row to take control, Knauerhase with two kills and a block and Gebhardt with a kill. Chittenango never got closer than five the rest of the way, and committed a net violation to give the Purple Tigers the winning point. The third game saw the Bears, who finished the season at 9-9, score nine of the first 10 points. Cortland got back to within one three times, at 11-10, 12-11, and 13-12, before the visitors put it away. Knauerhase had seven kills in the set.
“We could have had that game,” Olson said. “As I’ve said, we’ve been two different teams this year; the one team would have lost that set and the match, but it speaks volumes about the girls that they came back to win the fourth game. They’ve been working hard in practice, and it’s showing. This was absolutely one of our better performances of the season.”
The fourth set was also tied early, at two and three, before the hosts scored six of the next seven points and never trailed or were tied thereafter. Knauerhase had four kills and Gebhardt two. The Bears were able to score four points in a row after Cortland reached 24 before a kill by Purple Tigers junior middle blocker Zakarra Butts ended the match.
IN ADDITION TO Knauerhase, Gebhardt finished with 16 kills, 29 digs, an ace and the point block while Butts had 11 kills, two aces, two assists, two point blocks and a dig. Junior setter Jenna Gregory had 43 assists and 12 digs, senior libero Amanda Shelley 18 digs and an assist and Dorward 16 digs, four kills, an ace and a point block.
“It was all really intense. We played well together and talked,” Knauerhase said. “That made people more confident, and we helped each other out when we made mistakes. Once the fans started cheering there were no awkward silences. We didn’t want the season to end, and we kept it going.”
“Kelly did things tonight that she hasn’t done,” Olson said. “She’s started tipping the ball and finding holes. She tends to swing away and likes to get kills, but you can tip balls for kills, too. Kaylee sat the bench, behind two seniors, as a sophomore but was our Most Improved Player as a junior and this year has come to play. She’s focused, and suggests things in practice.
“And if 43 assists isn’t Jenna’s career high, it’s close. Amy, my eighth-grade coach, and I talk to each other on the sidelines, asking if this one is going to go five like matches usually do between us,” she added.
Senior middle hitter Rachel Antelmi had 19 kills and two aces for Chittenango, while senior outside hitter Jenna Barber had nine kills and two aces, junior setter Rose Mashie 19 assists, six kills and an ace and senior setter Sierra Sleight 20 assists.”
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