Girard battles to outlast Cardinal Mooney
GIRARD — Coming into Wednesday night, the Girard Indians had only lost six sets all year.
Two of them were against the Lakeview Bulldogs way back in August.
Except for that game along with a game against Jefferson, the Indians have rolled through the season sweeping their last 10 games as they currently sit 10th in the latest Division II OHSVCA poll.
It seemed like Wednesday was going to be more of the same for the Indians, but that’s why they play the games.
The Indians did just enough to squeak by the Cardinal Mooney Cardinals in four sets (25-15, 25-20, 20-25, and 25-15).
Junior Lauren Pallone suffered a thumb injury yesterday which limited her throughout the night, but she still got her 1,000th point in the opening set.
“I just knew I really wanted to hit it and pain doesn’t matter,” Pallone added. “It doesn’t really matter when it comes to this like the game, nothing matters.”
Her coach though sided with caution and limited her play as Girard (21-0) plays their first tournament game on October 20th.
“We had to use her sparingly,” Girard coach Phil Walters said. “We actually did okay, we brought a freshman in. Nico Cochran played extremely well for us coming off the bench. Mooney just capitalized. They forced us into playing not so cleanly.
“They came out as aggressive in that third set. They forced us to really rethink. I told them they have to rethink what we are doing out here. We needed to clean up our play and take it to them. We just had a lot of silly unforced errors.”
At least initially, things looked much like they had for Girard all season as they built out a 17 to 5 advantage in the opening set, but played even from there on as that play spilled over into the second set.
The Cardinals (7-13) raced out to an 11-1 advantage as Pallone sat on the bench which allowed Mooney to focus more so on Bree Latell.
Latell played well with 20 kills, 11 digs, and three aces. Cocharan added seven kills. Pallone still converted 10 kills despite her limited availability.
“She probably wouldn’t have played, but she wanted to come in and get that tonight, ” Walters said. “I told her, let me know how it felt. She said it felt good enough to go. She rolled the ball a lot. Normally hits the ball about a million miles an hour but tonight took it easy to protect her thumb, but she still played very well.”
Down, 11-1, the Indians dug in and started chipping away at the Mooney lead and got it eventually tied up at 19 thanks to the serving of Vanessa McGrogan and Cochran.
Cochran’s five straight service points helped the Indians take the second set 25-20.
“I told them that was the best comeback we had all year,” Walters said. “I mean that’s huge. When you’re down 10 points plus in a game, you’re looking to line up for the next set, because those usually don’t last.
“That was a great comeback just to stay with it. I always have high hopes. You always hope you are going to come back. You don’t know. A lot of times it doesn’t fall that way. We played well and I was excited for them. That was the best comeback of the year.”
Though, the momentum didn’t carry over into the third set with the Cardinals playing the Indians even en route to closing out the set much like Girard closed out the second set with timely hits and Girard errors to make it 2-1 going into the fourth set.
“That happens,” Walters said. “We made a few errors. Sometimes, the game gets the best of you. I tried to tell them to play for positives. You make a few errors and it affects the rest of the match.”
For Mooney, they took advantage of Pallone being out as they were a second set collapse away from pulling off the upset.
“That was the goal of the night, to pull off that upset,” Mooney coach Claire Ferrando said. “We know that Girard is a strong team. We were trying to make some adjustments throughout the night, but it was almost like we were playing against ourselves with unforced errors.
“It helped having Lauren out. Being able to just focus on Bree. We knew she was getting the ball and playing defense based on that. ”
Mooney was led by Alaina Francis and Alaina Scavina with 13 and 12 kills respectively. Angelina Rotunno added 28 assists.
Walters felt his team just needed to clean out their heads and just get back into it.
Pallone had a pep talk with every single one of her teammates
“I told them to go out there and play their game,” she added. “Even when I’m not out there, I’m cheering for them.”
It worked as the Indians never trailed in the fourth set, but Pallone coming back in seemed to give Girard a spark they needed.
“I think that’s why we tried subbing Lauren back in,” Walters added. “I think it made them feel a little stronger on the court. I think it really picked up our mojo in the fourth set just having her on the floor.”