Focused on fun
Hubbard sweeps Tigers, faces state’s No. 1 team
JEFFERSON — Hubbard volleyball coach Jeremy Porter wanted the Eagles to enjoy themselves as they enter postseason play.
He made sure to make that possible while implementing a game plan for his team’s sectional semifinal with Howland.
Porter succeeded in getting his team to have a bit of fun, and it helped them execute that plan to near perfection in taking down the Tigers, 25-14, 25-20, 25-21, in a Division II sectional bracket final at Falcon Gymnasium on Thursday night.
“This tournament is difficult,” Porter said. “The No.-1 team in the state is here and there are nine or 10 teams with winning records. That’s unusual. We want to come out loose every night. Coming out like we did, with a smile, made shaking off points easier. It was definitely a factor in winning tonight.”
In the second sectional bracket final, Mentor Lake Catholic eliminated Girard, 25-9, 25-15, 25-10.
The fifth-seeded Eagles (16-7) will try and unseat the top-seeded Cougars (23-0) in a district semifinal on Tuesday night at 5 p.m.
“The pressure will be on them,” Porter said. “They’re supposed to win a state championship. We want to get on them early and get them out of system a little bit. We’re going to stress having fun. You never know what might happen. They’re high school kids and we are high school kids. We’ll come up here ready to go.”
“We’ll take it one game at a time,” Lake Catholic coach Rich Severino said. “We don’t let them look past anyone. You’ve got to go 7-0 to win the state championship. This was the seventh game. Now, we’ve got to go win the sixth game.”
Hubbard’s attack had the Tigers (15-9) back on their heels from the onset.
“They came at us and we didn’t answer defensively,” Howland coach Amanda Lingenfelter said.
“We weren’t able to get the ball to the hitters and transition. (Hubbard’s) a tough team. Our serve-receive was a little off and we weren’t able to get the ball to the setter. Again, they were serving tough at us and we just didn’t answer back.”
That the Eagles were enjoying themselves made the game a bit easier.
“We were really relaxed,” Addy Jarvis said. “We’ve tried to have fun the last couple of days in practice, even today. We wanted to win, but we also wanted to have fun because it’s the last couple of games for the seniors.
“(Having fun) makes it a lot easier to accept things. When we made a bad play, it was easier to come back from it. It gave us a lot of confidence.”
The Hubbard attack was precise and aimed toward catching the Tigers by surprise.
“Our kids are pretty smart,” Porter said. “They’ve learned the game plan pretty good the last few days. They did everything we asked of them in practice and went above and beyond what we asked. They were in the right spots. Having smart kids like that makes it easier on a coach.”
The execution of the plan was made easy by the Eagles’ back row.
“Passing helped a lot,” Jarvis said. “Without the passing, you can’t have an offense. They were getting the ball up and we got great sets off of them. Then, we just had to put the ball down.
The Tigers made a run at Hubbard in the second and third games, but just couldn’t seize the moment.
“I can’t say that’s the first time it’s ever happened,” Lingenfelter said. “We’ve had plenty of occurrences we’ve been down after the first set and came back in the second. We just weren’t able to get our passing defense going.
“It was too little too late at that point. We’d even it up and then kill our own momentum with an unforced error.”
The Indians (12-12) were outmatched by Lake Catholic. That didn’t mean they didn’t take their best shot at the top-ranked team in the state.
“The first game, we were shell-shocked,” Girard coach Phil Walters said. “Our girls started to realize they volley with them a little bit and play with them. I wish they could’ve played the whole season with no fear (like they did tonight). I’m proud of them.
“On offense, I told the girls to swing for the hills. We knew the block would be there, but we were going for deflections. We wanted them to swing as hard as they could.”
The Cougars boast a lineup full of Division I college prospects, and the Indians had their work cut out for them.
“They have a huge offense,” Walters said. “One of the things we had to do was put hands in their face. They’re big, but their speed is the one thing that concerned me. They run a lot of quicks. I knew we weren’t going to get many blocks, but the one thing we wanted to do was put hands in their face and see what the back row could do.”