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Growing pains

Hubbard tops Poland as improving teams battle

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Hubbard outside hitter Gracie Bencetic sends the ball back over the net for the Eagles Thursday night against Poland.

HUBBARD — For both Hubbard and Poland’s volleyball programs, “growth” has been the theme of the season. In the first meetup early in September, Hubbard cruised to a 3-0 victory over Poland. This time around, while still ending the game in three sets, the Bulldogs were within five points in each set.

When preparing for this game, Eagles coach Ron Slipkasky expected improvement from both teams and was happy with the consistency his team showed.

“We beat them the first week of the season and I knew they’d be improved,” Slipkasky said. “I think we played pretty consistent volleyball all three games. We got a little lead all three games and we kept it mostly through the games.”

Despite the Eagles holding onto the leads they earned, the Bulldogs didn’t go down without a fight. In the final two sets, Poland battled back from two deficits and closed the final gaps to 26-24 and 25-21, respectively.

“We didn’t give up which is a good thing,” Bulldogs coach Aleah Hughes said. “Continuing to battle is always going to be good experience and, in the long run, maybe these help us become a better team and score more points.”

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Madison Wess of Poland sets the ball up for a teammate in the Bulldogs’ Northeast-8 matchup against Hubbard Thursday evening.

Alyssa Glaros was crucial in those comebacks for Poland and finished the evening with 18 digs and four aces. Lexi Kalicatzaros was a sparkplug on offense with 10 service points and seven kills.

On the other side of the court, Gillian Ryser had 13 service points, Emily Filicky had 10 kills and Karissa Fahndrich was the primary setter with 31 assists and had a strong defensive outing with 17 digs.

According to Slipkasky, closing out games has been tough at points this season. He saved his timeouts toward the end of each set to refocus the girls and remind them how important finishing is.

“We’ve lost a lot of close games this year so I’m just trying to remind them that we’ve got to finish games,” Slipkasky said. “That’s why I kept calling timeouts. I think it helps keep them focused that way.”

The key to finishing games is all about confidence. Slipkasky thinks finishing is one of the last major hurdles for his team and once the confidence comes, so will the finishing.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Poland’s Madelyn Tonas digs the ball and sends it back over the net for the Bulldogs.

“I think a lot of it is confidence, because they’ve struggled the last couple years and I think we’re getting really close to being a good team,” Slipkasky said.

Both coaches are in their first season with their respective programs and have watched their teams’ respective growth over the last two months. Slipkasky’s Eagles (6-8) have already matched last season’s win total and have been competitive everytime they’ve stepped on the court.

“I think it’s been good,” Slipkasky said. “We’ve played a couple undefeated teams and lost to them in five games. We’re playing competitive with every team we’ve played on the schedule so far this year. It’s a tough league.”

Poland (5-8) looks to recover in a home game against a solid United Local team and, like every game, Hughes is looking for growth.

“We’re just going to go and play and hopefully get better as a team,” she said.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Hubbard’s Peyton Slovesko attempts a spike over the defense of Poland sophomore Katie McDonald.

Hubbard had three games in three days, winning two, and aims to keep that success going next week with two Northeast-8 battles against South Range and Niles. Last time around, the Eagles beat South Range in four sets and hope to do it again.

“South Range is going to be a really good matchup for us this week,” Slipkasky said. “It’ll be a fun game.”

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