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Battle of the best

Rams win in 5 vs. No. 1 ’Dogs

CORTLAND — A classic battle between two No. 1 seeds lived up to the billing.

Both Mineral Ridge and Lakeview have earned top seeds in the upcoming postseason tournament. The Rams visited Cortland on Wednesday and walked away with the victory in a five-set nailbiter (21-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-20, 15-13) over the Bulldogs.

“What a fantastic team Lakeview is,” Mineral Ridge coach Ron Lesko said. “They have some really good players. What an effort from both teams. They had us outsized a little bit. We have to make up for it with good defense and playing scrappy. We’re small and mighty.”

Senior captain Katelyn Lesko is one of the tallest players on the Rams roster standing at 5-foot-6. She shows tremendous passion as she jumps high into the air for kills. Katelyn Lesko (22 kills, 24 digs) got up and smashed the final point of the match for Mineral Ridge.

“I hit the line-shot a couple of points before and I saw it was wide open,” she said. “The last point, I thought I needed to put the ball away. So, I tried to go there again. It was on line and it was a kill. We’re excited about the tournament.”

After dropping the first set 25-21, the Rams pulled out the second. Lakeview sophomore Tara Lytle got the second set started with a big spike and the Bulldogs were out in front. Senior Danielle Aulet (41 assists, 21 digs) set up Hannah Loeb for a spike to bring the Rams closer. Sophomore Sydney Poptic served up a lead for Lakeview, but Aliyah Whittaker came in with an ace for Mineral Ridge. After a long volley, with multiple players diving to the floor, Loeb finished off the second with a 26-24 victory for the Rams.

Lakeview came back to take the third set. A diving dig from Anna Peterson put the Bulldogs on top early. A 4.0 student, Peterson is a senior captain and the vocal leader of the Bulldogs on the court. After a cross-court bomb by Peterson, Lakeview went up by seven.

Maggie Pavlansky served an ace for Lakeview on a knuckleball. Pavlansky had a beautiful block and the Bulldog players yelled, “whoo!” in celebration. Another long volley brought the Rams back.

Senior Jersey Tucker got in on the action for Mineral Ridge. Megan Gerberry’s service point had the Rams within one. However, a roller over the net by Poptic, and an ace finish by Teagan Pierce closed out the third for Lakeview, 25-21.

The ball got up and pinballed around in the rafters several times in the fourth. Good serves from senior Mara Crish had Lakeview ahead. Senior Morgan Sigley gave the Rams the lead. Confusion by the Bulldogs resulted in Mineral Ridge expanding the advantage, and the Rams eventually won 25-21.

“We had a lack of mental focus,” Lakeview coach Heather Guthrie said. “After we lost the second set, our girls’ focus just went out the window. Mineral Ridge’s defense is amazing. They had a lot of great ups. It was a great matchup. We just made too many mistakes.”

Lakeview had leads of 11-8, and 13-12, thanks to Brooke Schnider (23 digs) in the final frame before falling, 15-13. Sigley, who stands as far back as possible when serving, helped the Rams pull in front.

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