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Ridge gets the best of Western Reserve this time around

MINERAL RIDGE – Earlier this month, the Mineral Ridge Rams dropped a 3-1 set to the Western Reserve Blue Devils. It’s their only blemish on the year.

The adage is that it’s tough to beat the same team twice and that came into play Thursday as the Rams got revenge, so to speak, in a 3-0 victory.

“We’ve improved since the last time we played them,” Mineral Ridge coach Ron Lesko said. “Our hitting has gotten better. We just have to be scrappy. That’s the name of our game. We have to hit the floor; and we have to get the ball back in play and make them play one more play. Make them play more play.”

The Rams (16-1, 10-1 Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference) were led by Kate Lesko’s 14 kills and 18 digs along with Danielle Aulet’s 27 assists.

Mineral Ridge overcame an early 8-3 deficit to win the first set 25-19.

Lesko didn’t think to win the first set was essential, but it seemed like the Rams coming back from that early deficit to get the opening set pushed the following sets in their favor.

“I don’t know if it’s a necessity in a five-set match, but it’s always good to get the first one under your belt,” Lesko said. “We started a little slow and they were doing what they were supposed to do. They kept pressuring us. They were serving well. They were putting the ball away. Luckily, we were able to get our serve back. We were able to turn the tide and put pressure on them. We just kind of went with that momentum.”

At times in that opening set, the Blue Devils (12-4, 8-2) front line presented some issues with blocks and kills with 6-foot-3 Danielle Vuletich being problematic for the Rams.

“It’s tough to compete against 6-3,” Lesko said. “You can’t teach big. You just can’t teach big. When our kids are coming through that front line, we tried to spread the ball around a little bit and utilize all of our hitters. We tried to get the kids to hit different shots. It just can’t be bang, bang, bang all night. You have to mix it up. There has to be a change-up in there somewhere. It’s absolutely how we can compete.”

She, along with Laura Sigworth, led Western Reserve with sevens kills apiece. Sigworth contributed 16 digs to keep the Blue Devils in the second set, which was a back-and-forth affair.

“There were moments when we were doing things really well,” Western Reserve coach Jennifer Lorenzi said. “We were moving our feet, setting up defensively and then they were moving their offense really quickly. We weren’t setting up as fast as we should have, and I think that hurt us on our first pass. You always need that first past to run your offense.”

It seemed that despite the first two sets being close matches all the way through when it came down to crunch time, the Rams seemed to have the big hits when necessary as they won the second set 25-23.

“He switched his lineup a little bit,” Lorenzi said. “I thought his hitters hit very well. They made a lot fewer mistakes this time. Their hitters were very clean. They did well against our block. We have a big block we put up. I think our injuries hurt us a little bit when it came to defense and our passing.”

The Rams closed out the final set 25-19 with Aulet being the main cog into why the Rams were successful this time against the Blue Devils.

“I told her tonight you have to be the quarterback,” Lesko said. “You’re the setter. You have to be in charge pushing that ball around. We have to utilize our right-side hitter. She can attack the ball a little bit too. Centers, unfortunately, don’t get a lot of the glory. They’re responsible for running the rhythm of the offense. Aulet I thought did a phenomenal job.”

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