VOLLEYBALL: Grant Park makes quick work of St. Anne
GRANT PARK — Both teams were coming off three-set matches on Monday.
However, only one team’s level of energy carried over into Tuesday’s River Valley Conference match.
Grant Park put forth a solid effort all-around, especially from the serving line, on its way to a 25-13, 25-17 straight-set victory against St. Anne.
“There were certain types we could have stepped it up, but overall, we played pretty well,” Grant Park coach Nina Zalewski said.
“Every team goes through lulls and plays flat at some points, but then you get that spark from a player, and that’s how it was for us tonight.”
After three ties and a couple of lead changes, Grant Park pieced together three straight points for a 10-7, forcing a St. Anne timeout.
Grant Park’s Dana Welchko brought some order to the serving line to help give the Dragons the lead; now it was her time to put the game away. Those three straight points turned into an 11-0 run as the senior unconsciously served up a staggering five aces that took all the wind out of the Cardinals’ sails.
Hadleigh Loitz added another ace later, along with a Rylee Panozzo kill, to give the Dragons the opening set. In total, the Dragons finished the game with 10 aces.
“We are aggressive with serving, sometimes maybe even too aggressive,” Zalewski said. “We flirted with that back line a little bit but also knew when to pull off a little bit and drop it a little shorter. We’ve really been working on hitting that seam and the short stuff to make other teams move rather than serving straight to a player.”
Nothing, literally nothing, changed to start the second set. Five ties and two lead changes happened before, once again, Grant Park strung three more points for a 10-7 lead.
Although there was no 11-0 run, the Dragons did puzzle together a total 12-2 run that extended the lead to 19-9 before a pair of Loitz kills sealed the Dragons’ victory.
“This was the first time playing St. Anne this season, and it’s a big win,” Zalewski said. “We were unsure of what they were bringing at us. In the past, they’ve had strong hitting, blocking and passing. But we kept the ball in front of us, moved our well and played smart volleyball.”
Not their night
On the Cardinals’ side of the things, Tuesday’s match seemed like a one-step forward, two-steps back type of deal.
Although they were coming off back-to-back three-set losses to Gardner-South Wilmington last Thursday and Cissna Park on Monday, head coach Zach Kirkland felt his team was turning a corner beforehand.
“Those were two games that we could have won but didn’t,” Kirkland said. “We were doing the small things, like being more consistent, serving tougher and staying aggressive. I saw all of those things Thursday and Monday but none of that tonight. There’s something about Grant Park that takes us off of our game.”
St. Anne’s slate doesn’t get any easier, with four games in the next seven days followed by the Beecher tournament next weekend.
The major point of emphasis on Kirkland’s mind was the Cardinals need to be mentally tougher moving forward.
“Bad games happen, and we have to let that go,” Kirkland said. “Our mental status is low right now, and we’re too busy analyzing every single error instead of putting away and moving to the next point. We can’t be thinking about this game and the mistakes on Thursday, so we’ll work on those things in practice tomorrow.”
Grant Park returns to action next Tuesday at home for a River Valley Conference showdown with Beecher. St. Anne travels to Beecher for RVC action on Thursday.