Poland and Salem advance with sweeps
By matthew peaslee
Poland’s Allison Berend wants to be a part of something special.
She wants to put Bulldog volleyball on the map.
“Poland is not really known for its volleyball program,” Berend said. “We’re young and we want to make ourselves known in the tournament.”
She certainly began to pave that path towards recognition with a 14-point, nine-kill performance in a three-set, 25-18, 25-19, 25-10, sweep of Struthers on Tuesday in the first round of the Division II tournament at Boardman High School.
Just a sophomore, Berend is almost a seasoned veteran to the game. The Bulldogs sport a lineup that features just one senior, Mackenzie Mulligan, who had eight kills. The rest are underclassmen, including a pair of freshmen, Aleah Hughes and Abbey Jones.
“They were two girls that I had knew would play varsity since June,” said Poland coach Caitlin O’Patchen. I told them that they’re basically sophomores, now. So, they need to kick it up a level now that it’s the postseason.”
The first-year coach is on board with Berend’s vision and cites the Salem program as an inspiration.
However, the Quakers are 34 years in the making.
That’s how long head coach Don Conser has been at the helm. He totaled the 363rd win of his storied career as Salem defeated Niles by scores of 25-9, 25-9 and 25-6.
“It seems like something just happens when the girls at Salem get on the volleyball team,” Conser said. “Their goal is to do the best job they can and to win as many games as they can. They’re just determined girls who like to win and hate to lose.”
Kayleigh Null is a successful product of that winning environment.
She spent the past three seasons on the junior varsity team. Now a senior, Null has definitely been influenced.
“It’s a really cool feeling knowing that you’re expected to be good,” she said after landing eight aces.
“It’s motivation to play better.”
The Quakers (22-1) won the first game easily against Niles, but were tied 7-7 in game two, which was a wake up call.
“Before and during the game I told them, ‘Don’t take anything for granted,’” Conser said.
Salem then rallied for 10 straight points.
Alexis Smith had eight kills on the Salem attack, and she and Cassie Davidson had four digs each.