The Boardman team was previously unbeaten.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
BOARDMAN -- The Boardman High volleyball team still isn't in the class of the Austintown Fitch program, but it's getting closer.
Despite entering the game with Steel Valley Conference rival Fitch with a 9-0 record, the Spartans were spanked by the Falcons 15-7, 15-11.
Fitch (5-3, 3-0) used strong team play and the experience of playing top-flight competition to pull away from Boardman in both games.
Fitch has played some of the top teams in the state this year in Cincinnati Seton, Cleveland Villa-Angela/St. Joseph and Solon.
However, Fitch coach Tom Case was impressed with the Spartans.
"They are a good young team," Case said. "They played hard and they battled us.
"It's fun to come in here at Boardman and play with all these fans," Case said. "The atmosphere was fun and I think it inspires the kids to play well."
Boardman coach Ron Slipkansky, on the other hand, thought his team succumbed to nerves down the stretch of both games.
"I think we got nervous," Slipkansky said. "We made too many errors at the wrong time."
Turning point: Boardman was able to play even with Fitch throughout the first game until the Falcons turned a close 7-6 lead into a 15-7 victory.
Case said the team was able to rally because it began to get the ball more effectively to its hitters, who were then able to put pressure on the Boardman defense.
The player most responsible for that was sophomore setter Stacie Mang, who finished with 15 assists. Mang also had a team-high six points
"I enjoy getting the ball to my hitters," Mang said. "And in return they make me look good. But the key tonight was solid team play."
The Falcons again started slowly in the second game and had to fight off the stubborn Spartans.
In fact, Boardman took the lead at 11-10 before Fitch rallied for the victory.
Again, big hits were the key to Fitch's comeback, but the Falcons also got on the net for key blocks in the second game.
Jessica DiCarlo, Maggie Case, Ashlee Lemke and Katie McDermott all were instrumental with their blocks along the net.
DiCarlo also had six kills and five points, while Case and Lemke each added four kills and five points, respectively.
Slipkansky said he was disappointed yet encouraged by his team's performance.
"We're getting closer to [Fitch's] level, but we are not quite there yet," Slipkansky said.
Mara Capraruolo led the Spartans with nine kills and two blocks, while Chelsea Hutch had seven points and Jen Hlebovy four points.