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Up-and-coming Vikings ousted by Cards

Staff photo / Brad Emerine LaBrae senior Jenna Reppart blocks a shot by Cardinal Mooney during a Division III district tournament matchup Wednesday in Leavittsburg. Reppart’s career came to an end as the Cardinals upset LaBrae in three sets.

LEAVITTSBURG — A young LaBrae volleyball team showed great improvement during the regular season.

The Vikings were rewarded with an 11th seed in the Division III district tournament and got to play a home match against 16th-seeded Cardinal Mooney.

But LaBrae’s postseason began and finished in a flash, as the Vikings fell to the Cardinals 25-19, 25-21, 25-22 on Wednesday.

“Our biggest goal, being as young as we are, was to improve throughout the season and be peaking at the right point of the season,” said coach Courtney Kish, whose squad finished 12-8. “I think in the last few weeks of the season we were a much-improved team. We really bonded and excelled the way we wanted to entering the tournament. We played well in spurts tonight, but just never really put it all together.

“We had a little trouble with serve receive, so there were times when we were out of our offense there, especially when (Mooney) made their big run in the second game.”

Staff photo \ Brad Emerine Mooney’s Alaina Francis prepares to spike the ball in the second game of the Cardinals’ 25-19, 25-21, 25-22 win over LaBrae in the first round of the Division III district tournament Wednesday in Leavittsburg.

In the first game, LaBrae led 9-6 and 16-14 before the Cardinals scored 11 of the final 14 points.

In the closing stretch, Mooney’s Reagan Filipowicz recorded a pair of aces and a kill, Alaina Francis supplied a kill and an ace and Katie Hough powered home a pair of kills. LaBrae’s three points in that stretch came courtesy of Jenna Reppart. The Vikings’ lone senior had two kills and an ace.

“Jenna really improved greatly offensively this year,” Kish said. “We’ve always relied on her big block, but she took her game to another level this year. She put in tremendous time, always working on her game. She’s a dedicated athlete, and we’ll miss her.”

In the second game, a kill by Francis gave the Cardinals a 4-2 lead and sent Filipowicz to the service line. She served up 11 consecutive points, including a pair of aces. Maria Fire added a nice block and Hough added two more kills as the lead grew to 15-2.

Although the Vikings took timeouts twice, they couldn’t stop the bleeding.

“We used timeouts there, but there wasn’t much else we could do,” Kish said.

“The girls have to believe in themselves. There’s nothing else I could say. They finally came around a bit and we put a little scare in (Mooney), but when they’re up 2-0, it’s tough.”

Trailing 20-10, the hosts got within 21-17 and then 22-20. But the Cardinals held on.

LaBrae carried some of that momentum into the third game and led 9-6 and 12-9 before Mooney tied it at 15 and again at 19 on a tip-kill from Filipowicz. Consecutive aces from Leanne Chandler made it 22-19. A Filipowicz kill made it 23-20, and she added another a few points later to make it 24-22 before the Cardinals got the final point to set off a celebration.

Mooney improved to 8-14 and will play at seventh-seeded East Palestine in the second round at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Reppart finished with seven kills, two blocks and three aces.

“We knew (Reppart) was a single-blocker a lot of the times in the middle, so we wanted to run things a little quicker and to the outside and make her have to move a lot,” Mooney coach Claire Ferrando said. “She also had a tendency to hit to the left side of the court, so we were able to put up a double-block against her and that really helped us.

“We’re playing more as a cohesive unit rather than six individuals,” Ferrando said. “It felt awesome and looked awesome, and we got the result we wanted. We couldn’t be happier.”

For LaBrae, it was a successful season.

“I’m proud of the girls,” Kish said. “They exceeded my expectations this year and it’s such a great group. We were not ready for the season to end. We really enjoy them on a daily basis.”

Summer Pumphrey added five kills, Grace Barnhart had 10 digs and Ashley Monroe contributed seven assists, one more than Rylee McDonough.

“Next year, we’ll have our two setters back,” Kish said. “Ashley is a junior who has a lot of chemistry with her teammates. Riley really had a growth spurt as a freshman and she has some power as a hitter, too. This was her first year hitting, so she’s just working on the basics. She’s been a setter her whole life. Summer Pumphrey is a primary hitter. I expect the girls to come back and have more self-confidence next year.”

Filipowicz had nine kills, four aces and three blocks and Hough finished with 18 digs and 11 kills to lead the Cardinals. Fire added four blocks and Angelino Rotunno had 29 assists and 10 digs.

“I think our scrappiness was terrific,” Ferrando said. “I can remember four or five real long volleys (in the match) and, I think, we won four of those points, including a couple during that second-set run. I love defense, and think defense is a huge part of this game. It’s not the most glamorous, but it’s vital. When you’re scrappy and never quit on balls, it drains the emotion and momentum on from the other team.”

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