It took eight years, but Boardman topped Fitch in straight sets 15-11, 15-8.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- Jen Hlebovy tried not to smile. Jen Feret tried not to smile. The whole Boardman High volleyball team tried not to smile.
But when you're one point away from beating your rival, Fitch, for the first time in eight years ...
"It's hard not to," Hlebovy, one of four Spartan seniors, said. "You just get so excited."
After winning the first set, Boardman took a 14-1 lead and withstood a late Falcon rally to win 15-11, 15-8 Tuesday night at Fitch High.
It was Boardman's first win over Fitch since 1994.
"It seems like we've been waiting forever," Feret, a senior, said. "It should've happened a lot earlier, but we finally put it to them."
Fitch beat Boardman three times last season, including the Division I district final. The Falcons advanced to the state semifinal, losing to eventual state champion Cincinnati St. Ursula Academy.
Hit hard by graduation
Fitch graduated four seniors and two starters from that team, including Vindicator player of the year, Ashlee Lemke.
Boardman lost standout Mara Capraruolo, who now plays at the University of Akron, but had five starters returning.
"We told ourselves, This is the team," Feret said.
The Spartans fell behind 8-5 in the first set, but junior Whitney Tressel served six straight points to give Boardman an 11-5 lead. Fitch cut the deficit to 12-11, but Hlebovy served the next three points to give Boardman the victory.
"We started out strong and got the momentum right off the bat," Spartan coach Ron Slipkasky said. "Then we started pressuring them. [Fitch] missed a lot of serves and they usually don't do that."
Boardman juniors Jaclyn Corroto and Krysta Sylvester combined for the first 14 points in the second set.
Part of the reason for the losing streak was mental, Hlebovy said.
"We had to overcome that," Hlebovy, who had three points and three kills, said. "But this has been our goal all season and we worked really hard to win it. It feels awesome."
Corroto finished with nine points and 11 assists and Sylvester added nine points and six digs for Boardman (7-1, 2-0). Senior Lauren Craig added five kills.
Fitch senior Katie McDermott, the Falcons' lone returning senior starter, had six points, nine kills and 11 digs. Stacie Mang added 18 assists and six digs for Fitch (6-3, 2-1).
Terzak misses contest
The Falcons were without junior Rachel Terzak, who dislocated her thumb earlier in the season. Junior Maggie Case, one of the area's best players, missed nearly all the offseason with a stress fracture in her shin and is still trying to regain her form.
"I thought they played well," Fitch coach Tom Case said of Boardman. "They did a good job serving and a good job defensively.
"When things weren't going our way, we didn't seem to fight our way out of it. We're still learning at this point and we have some things to work on before we play them again."