Weekly Feature

2018-11-08 / Sports

Olean ends EA girls volleyball’s title reign

Sports Reporter

East Aurora’s girls volleyball team saw its two-year run as sectional champions come to an end Thursday at Daemen College, as seventh-seeded Olean surprised the top-seeded Lady Blue Devils by 25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 20-25, 23-25 marks in the Section VI Class B-1 final.

East Aurora had won the overall Class B title in 2017 and was the Class B-1 champion in 2016. The Lady Blue Devils’ run to the Far West Regionals last fall – their first trip to the state tournament since 2007 — included a five-set win over the Lady Huskies, so it really wasn’t a surprise to coach Rebecca Jacobs when Olean was waiting for her squad in this year’s title match.

“Olean is a very strong and competitive team that took us to five games when we played them in the semifinals last year, so seeing them in the finals this year wasn’t a surprise,” Jacobs said. “Both teams played to win Thursday night, but Olean just had a few more kills from their front row and we didn’t defend them well enough, even though it honestly was the best volleyball game that we had played all season.”

Olivia Alessi (14 kills, 3 aces) made a few good connections with Olivia Covington (11 kills) in the third game, which helped East Aurora take a 2-1 lead at the time. Covington also played the best defensive game of her career, Jacobs said, as she “kept digging their outsides and middle all night. Unfortunately, our offensive attack made a few errors, which put us behind.”

“Olean had stronger servers, which also made it difficult for our serve receive passers,” Jacobs added.

To reach the finals, East Aurora had to beat both Maryvale – last year’s fellow B-1 finalist – and City Honors along the way, which the Lady Blue Devils did in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively.

Maryvale came into Oct. 26’s contest with a few new wrinkles to its approach, but the Lady Blue Devils quickly adjusted and managed to post a straight-sets 25-22, 25-12, 25-16 win. Alessi (16 assists, 1 ace) and Covington (3 blocks) each had nine kills, while Izzy Sell had five kills and a block for the victors as well.

“Maryvale had changed a few things in their lineup from when we played them the week before, making the first set very close, but our girls served tough and defended their middle attacker,” Jacobs said. “The team adjusted to how Maryvale changed their offense and it showed in the second game. I was proud of the younger players on the team because this was their first playoff match on varsity and they stayed focused from start to finish.”

East Aurora’s focus when it took on City Honors three days later in the semifinal round, as the Lady Eagles had never faced the Lady Centaurs before. City Honors’ middles gave East Aurora the most trouble in the second set, but with Alessi’s serving “we were able to fight back and stay in the game,” Jacobs said.

“Olivia did a great job of scanning the court and seeing what spots were open,” Jacobs said. “This game really displayed her court awareness and we were able to score some big points that way. The team knew that we had to beat City Honors to make it to the B1 Championship match for the third year in a year, which is something our seniors and underclassmen were working for. Both teams had a lot of energy on the court, which helped make it a very exciting match.”

Alessi finished the match with 16 kills and four aces for the Lady Blue Devils, who prevailed by 25-12, 26-24, 25-20 marks.

East Aurora loses four seniors — Covington, Kelly Gampietro, Taylor McClure and Astrid Larson – to graduation off a squad that finished 14-3 overall this season. Covington was a four-year member of the varsity squad, while Gampietro was a three-year varsity player.

“It’s always sad to lose seniors that you have worked with for so long and have watched progress over their high school career, but I am really proud of these four girls and grateful for their hard work that they have put into our volleyball program,” Jacobs said. “Their level of commitment and dedication to the program has helped us get to where we are today. Three out of the last four years we had made it to the sectional finals, including last year’s trip to the regionals, and we were also regular season champs the last two years too. It’s something they can all be proud of.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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