Building a program

Mineral Ridge volleyball shooting for winning season

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Mineral Ridge volleyball coach Joey DeLisio, left, shares a laugh with her team during a break in the Rams’ three-set victory Wednesday night over Liberty. The Rams are off to a 3-1 start as they try to reach their goal of having a winning season.

MINERAL RIDGE — Mineral Ridge Rams volleyball coach Joey DeLisio is looking for her program to experience a winning season in 2017, and through four matches thus far, the Rams are well on their way. On Wednesday night, Mineral Ridge won for the third time this season, sweeping Liberty in three sets, 25-14, 25-23 and 26-24.

“We beat Western Reserve (on Tuesday night) — which was huge for us,” DeLisio said. “We’re looking to break .500, but the more is better. We really think this is our year.”

The Rams (3-1) proved that more is better in the early going, as they went on an 8-0 run to take a 13-7 lead in the first set. Liberty briefly cut the deficit down to three, 15-12, but Mineral Ridge went on yet another 8-0 run to pull away for good.

However, the second and third sets weren’t quite as easy for the Rams. Liberty (2-1) came into the match undefeated, and looked very scrappy the rest of the way. Despite Ridge picking up where they left off in the previous set — as it took a 5-0 lead to start the second set — Liberty would not go down without fighting.

Liberty countered with a 6-0 run, before falling behind again. Down 16-14, the Leopards stormed back to take a 20-18 lead, completing a 13-7 run. Liberty would take a 23-22 lead before a Rams timeout, but was unable to hold the lead, and ultimately lost, 25-23.

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray The Liberty volleyball team prepares to break the huddle after a break in their loss Wednesday at Mineral Ridge.

“I think (we) started to talk a little bit more, so I think that made a big difference, the big communication and being able to read a lot of the plays,” Liberty coach Millie Manning said of her team’s improvement from the first set to the second set.

Liberty once again had an opportunity to get back in the match in the third set, as it took a 7-6 lead. The teams battled back and forth in an intense final set, and once again, Liberty led in the closing stages.

Trailing 21-20, Mineral Ridge managed to tie the match up at 23 apiece, before Liberty went back ahead. The Rams called their second timeout of the set to refocus, and ultimately ended the set on a 3-0 run to take the match.

“We play a game called ‘Situation Game’ in practice. We make the score where we’re losing by two or four, and there’s some type of punishment — (like) suicides, and we play that every day,” DeLisio said.

“I think that’s really what helps them, and when I call a timeout, I explain to them, ‘We do this every day. There’s no pressure, we do it every day, it should be second nature to you.’ “

Manning, like DeLisio, is still in the process of building a program. Manning says she hopes her young Leopards can finish somewhere around .500 or better this season, as she believes that her squad still needs to work on things like service-receive, passing and digs.

As for DeLisio, it’s all about eliminating mental errors. “Honestly, it’s our own self errors (that we need to work on),” DeLisio said. “I think our first game — we went five sets with Lisbon — we had 59 personal errors.

“That was more than half their points they earned was with our errors, that’s something we’re really working on. But that’s a good thing, (because) we can fix our own mistakes, as opposed to the other team’s.”