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Ridge rebounds, sweeps McDonald

Staff photo Brian Yauger Mineral Ridge senior Katelyn Lesko (8) puts the ball over the net past McDonald’s Molly Howard and Grace Bundy who both leap in the air to try and block the shot. The Rams bested their rivals in three straight sets on Tuesday night.

McDONALD — After dropping a 3-0 match to Cardinal in their last game, the Mineral Ridge Rams came out strong with some tough serving pressure to capture a three-set victory over rival McDonald.

“We did what we needed to do,” Rams coach Ron Lesko said. “We established a little bit of pressure with our serve and controlled the game with that serve. Then, when we were able to get a free ball out of the serving pressure, we put the ball away.”

Despite the 3-0 win, the Blue Devils weren’t afraid to battle back. McDonald took a couple leads early in the set and continued to push, especially in the third set, which ended in a 25-19 Ram victory.

During a timeout in that third set, Lesko reminded his girls of the game plan.

“I just wanted them to stick to what they do best,” Lesko said. “No matter what the other team is doing, you have what you’re trying to accomplish. You play your set defense, and you stick to what you do. That’s always what I’m going to tell my kids.”

Staff photo / Brian Yauger McDonald’s Maria Rasile sets up a teammate during the Blue Devils match on Tuesday against Mineral Ridge.

That approach has worked for the Rams who move to 8-1 on the year and remain a perfect 5-0 in the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference Scarlet Tier.

Katelyn Lesko quarterbacked the Mineral Ridge offense, leading the way with 16 kills. Morgan Sigley had 13 aces. Danielle Aulet was the main setter for the Rams with 22 assists.

Blue Devils coach Amy Harrison thinks one of the main issues during the match was a lack of preparedness early.

“That’s a tough team,” Harrison said. “I think we weren’t mentally prepared to go. I think we didn’t start out like we did our last couple games. We’ve been doing well for our second year. We’ve been competing in matches that are tough and we’re not doing too bad in the league, we just knew it was going to be a tough game. They’re a good team and I just don’t feel like we were mentally prepared for it.”

McDonald, which is in its second season with a volleyball program, sits at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the tough MVAC Scarlet. As the program continues to grow, Harrison has been proud of how far her team has come in such a short time.

“I’m really proud of them,” she said. “Last year being the first year, in a super tough league, we came in and it took some games. It’s tough. I feel like this year we’ve really turned the corner and I was blessed with athletes. I couldn’t be prouder with the learning they’ve done.”

Many coaches this fall have shared a similar sentiment and it’s had nothing to do with wins and losses. They’re just glad there’s a season at all.

“With the way things went this year, I’m just happy we’re out here playing volleyball because it was kind of scary there for a while,” Lesko said. “You’re thinking that you’re not going to have a season and you think about all those poor kids, those seniors who have worked hard for all these years and not to be able to play their senior season would be crushing.”

Up next for the Blue Devils is a league game on the road against Sebring.

The Rams (8-1), who were ranked 12th in the first Division IV statewide coaches poll of the year, have only dropped four sets this season, only one set loss coming from league play. They look to continue this success when they host Springfield Thursday.

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