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Ridge roughed up

Rams’ upset bid thwarted by Division I Boardman

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Katelyn Lesko of Mineral Ridge sends a shot over the net against Boardman blockers Maria Torres, left, and Lanny Kilpatrick.

BOARDMAN — It’s not often that a Division I volleyball team goes head-to-head with a Division IV team, but Boardman did just that in a showdown Saturday morning against Mineral Ridge, with the Spartans coming out on top 3-1.

“I have to give them credit for their defense,” Boardman coach Alyssa Birch said. “They’re a really scrappy team and they made it difficult for us to put the ball away. I knew they had a record of 11-1, and I knew that they’re always notorious for not giving up and having good defense and stuff, so we knew we had to come and show up today.”

The first set went back-and-forth the entire way until Boardman edged out a 25-21 win.

The Rams battled in all four sets, but were only able to come out with one win, getting a 25-21 victory in set number two.

“I thought we played really, really well in game two and we managed to get the win,” Rams coach Ron Lesko said. “But they were able to put that relentless pressure on and it counted. They got out on us a little bit in sets one, three and four, and we just weren’t able to close that gap.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Mineral Ridge senior Jersey Tucker (9) leaps in the air to give the ball a slight touch over the net in the Rams’ 3-1 loss at Boardman on Saturday.

“There’s times that we play other teams and the teams can get out on us and our attackers are able to put the ball away, but they’re a solid team. They play good defense and they put up a good block, so you’re going to have to really earn your points against a team of that caliber.”

Going into the third set, the Spartans had a moment to calm down and reflect on some mistakes they made in the second set.

That time worked well for Boardman as the Spartans came out in the third set reinvigorated and carried it into the fourth, to claim victory in both sets 25-14.

Maria Torres and Katie Stamp led the way on offense with 14 and 11 kills respectively. Lanny Kilpatrick ended the game with 23 digs and Kamryn Duritza had 23 assists.

“We pointed out all of our unforced errors,” Birch said. “In that game alone, we had six missed serves and five unforced errors. When you point out those things and make the adjustments on your side of the court, that was our motivation.”

Mineral Ridge (11-2) looks to use this loss as a learning experience. Lesko said he views each game as a stepping stone that will lead to playoff success. One of the things the team has taken a major interest in is defense. With the postseason fast approaching, the Rams will make it a sticking point to have a shutdown defense.

“You’ve got to win playing defense,” Lesko said. “If you can’t put the ball in the air, I don’t care how good of a hitter you are, you’re never going to get the ball back. If you can’t make a defensive play, you’re never going to get to attack a ball, so defense has to come first.”

As for Boardman, it looks to continue to tighten up their play and limit the unforced errors.

“That’s something we work on every single day in practice,” Birch said. “We think of it like a mindset. Maybe not being so offensive in the moment, but trying to keep the ball in play and waiting for the other team to make some mistakes too.”

The win gives Boardman (8-5) its third win in a row after 3-0 sweeps of Poland and Cardinal Mooney. The Spartans are at home Tuesday vs. Harding.

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