February 11, 2016

Red Lions roaring into finals

vballBob Ellis/staff photographer
Emily Price of Cincinnatus had seven digs and four assists in Wednesday’s sectional win over Stockbridge Valley

Staff Writer

CLINTON — After some initial nerves Wednesday night, the Cincinnatus Central volleyball team did just fine, thank you.
The third-seeded Red Lions came out a bit shaky and lost the first set of their Section 3 semifinal match against No. 2 Stockbridge Valley 25-23. They trailed 12-8 in the second set before scoring six straight points to go ahead for good and scored the final five points to win 25-16 and even the match at one set apiece.
From then on, Cincy was sharp and full of confidence while the Cougars appeared shaky. The Red Lions rolled 25-10 in the third set and held back a Stockbridge Valley surge to take the fourth 25-18, winning the match and earning a berth in Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship contest at Chittenango High.
There coach Macy Cobb’s squad will face Remsen, the top seed and two-time defending champion. The Rams (16-3) dispatched No. 5 Belleville-Henderson 25-23, 29-31, 25-20, 25-15 Wednesday in the other semifinal.
“The girls played great once they settled down,” Cobb said, her team now 12-6 on the season. “I think when they won the second game pretty well it gave them confidence and as it went on they felt more confident.
“In the fourth set I got a little nervous when they started doing some strange stuff, but they came through. Mental toughness is hard to teach, but they’ve been developing it right along.”
The match pitted the top two teams in the Central Counties League this season against each other. The Cougars won the title at 8-0 in the league with the Red Lions second at 6-2, both losses to Stockbridge Valley — in four sets on the road in early December and in five sets at home early last month. In between, however, was the CCL Tournament, Dec. 12 on the Cougars’ home court, an unofficial event at which Cincy beat the hosts in two sets, which Cobb noted gave her team some confidence coming into Tuesday’s match.
STOCKBRIDGE VALLEY coach Ray Webb saw it differently.
“We won, then they won, then we was our turn (to lose) this time,” he said with a slight smile after his team had finished the season at 9-3. “The way to beat those guys is to take it to them. If we can’t get our hands on a set because the ball’s spinning too much and aren’t able to set our hitters and run an offense, we’re destined to lose. And that’s what happened. When we’re aggressive we get good play from our hitters and put teams back on their heels. We lost this match because we were passive.
“The girls were still up after the third set. I put my (fourth-set) lineup in, turned and walked back there and they were cutting me off and doing their own thing trying to get themselves motivated. They, as a group, as a whole, are very impressive as far as maturity level, as far as wanting it. They were pumping themselves up trying to change stuff around before I even said two words.”
Leading the way for Cincy was senior middle hitter Kaitlin Manley, who had 11 kills, three blocks and two aces.
“Before the match my father (Lawrence) reminded me of the two things I do to help the team stay on top,” Manley said. “They are good serving and playing big at the net. But we all cheer each other on, and when we do what we did tonight — play as a team — we win.
“I was nervous the first set. I’m sure the whole team was. But after we won the second set I decided that I was going to let it all out, especially if this was going to be my last match. From playing Stockbridge Valley so many times we knew that they started to bicker with each other when they got in a deep hole, got outside their heads and had trouble getting back up.”
IN ADDITION TO Manley, sophomore setter Emily Price, who Cobb noted was injured the first time the teams met this season, had seven digs, four assists and two kills while sophomore outside hitter Devan Burritt had five aces and eight assists, junior outside hitter Remington Blasdell four aces, two digs and two kills, junior outside hitter Cheyenne Nowalk five digs, two kills and an ace, senior libero Cheyenne Phillips four digs and senior middle hitter Kennedy Crothers three aces.
Tiffani Jacobs had 12 kills, four digs, two aces and two blocks for the Cougars, while Kendra Webb had 26 assists, two kills, two digs and an ace, Hunter Middleton six kills, two digs and a block and Dani Webb five kills, four digs and two aces.
Stockbridge Valley opened the match by scoring the first five points of the first set. Cincy came back, though, and went on a 9-1 run to take a 17-12 lead, Burritt with two aces in the stretch and Crothers with four serving points. The Red Lions still led, 21-17, when the Cougars scored five straight points with Jacobs serving to go up 22-21. Cincy then came back to take a 23-22 lead before Stockbridge Valley closed it out with the final three points, capped by an ace from Katelyn Green.
Five of the six consecutive points that put Cincy up for good in the second set were on serves by Nowalk, and the Red Lions scored the last five points to close it out, the last three coming on aces by Blasdell. Manley had four kills in that set. She also had three kills and a block in the third, all coming as Cincy blew open a close one with 11 straight points with Crothers serving.
After losing the first point of the fourth set the Red Lions scored six straight points, five of them, including two aces, with Burritt serving, and never trailed after that. The Cougars got within one three times, the last at 16-15, before the winners went on a 9-3 run to end the match, the final point coming on a return into the net by Stockbridge Valley.
COBB, WHO NOTED that this is the farthest Cincy has advanced in the Class D sectionals since winning back-to-back championships in 2011-12 and 2012-13 (the latter against the Cougars), is retiring as a teacher and coach at the end of this school year after 28 years at the helm of the Red Lions and 31 years with the program. She said she has no idea of her won-lost record or how many league titles her teams have won, but her players do want to give her one more sectional championship.
“It’s extra incentive. Before we knew the sectional seedings I said ‘If we win it for anyone, let’s win it for her,’” Manley said of Cobb, who noted that her team also beat Remsen in two games at the CCL Tournament.
“I have a feeling that this was the championship match,” coach Webb said. “I think that either of us could beat Remsen pretty good.”

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