Few volleyball tournaments are rewarding as the annual Spike for Tykes Tournament.
The tournament pairs each team with a tyke for the day, offering a youngster the chance to be part of a team for the day. Along with great volleyball, it's a very fun day.
Paired with Beckett, a very cute little guy who fit right in with the Wildcats, the men of Ohio City enjoyed a great day in Alliance.
The Volleyball Cats defeated LaSalle, 2-0, to open the day before downing Columbus St. Charles, 2-1, to advance to the finals. The Wildcats then dropped the title bout to Gahanna Lincoln, 2-0, to end a fun day at Mount Union.
With the weekend action, the Wildcats advance to 6-4 on the year entering Monday's showdown at Brunswick.
Saturday's festivities began with a quarterfinal contest against LaSalle. The Cincinnati powerhouse fought the Wildcats closely in the first set, battling to a 13-13 draw. The war continued as the set marched on, though the Wildcats gradually built a small lead. Phil Catanzaro tallied back-to-back blocks and a kill to help the Wildcats print an 18-15 advantage. Down the stretch, LaSalle committed costly errors, including three straight to stretch the Wildcats' lead to 23-18. LaSalle called a timeout, but the Wildcats finished it off in the end, 25-21.
The script was reversed in the second set, as the Wildcats committed 15 errors. As a result, the men from Cincy staked out early leads of 9-6 and 11-8. The Wildcats erased the gap, battling to a tie of 14-all. Key plays by Catanzaro and Kyle Gerrity helped the Cats record a 4-1 run and pave a slight lead. The Wildcats continued to hold a slim lead, but errors erased it at 22-22. Kills by Catanzaro and Boeckman set the lead at 24-22, but LaSalle staved off elimination with two points. However, the comeback was for naught, as a Boeckman kill and a LaSalle error granted the Cats a 26-24 win.
After tallying 7 kills and 2 aces in the first contest, Catanzaro kicked it into another gear against Columbus St. Charles, an opponent that swept the Wildcats in the opening weekend.
The Cats and the Cardinals fought fiercely from the start. The teams split the first 22 points evenly at 11 apiece. Saint Ignatius errors then tilted the tables towards St. Charles. The Columbus power entered the home stretch with a 19-16 lead after an 8-5 run. The Wildcats knocked on the door before finally busting it down with a 3-0 run to tie the contest at 22, thanks to a Boeckman kill and a Matthew Rogers ace. The teams exchanged points, until the Cats tallied two straight to get it to set point. Then the Cardinals arose and fired off three straight to win the set, 28-26.
The Wildcats played inspired in the second set. The Clevelanders flowed to a 6-2 start, as Catanzaro caught fire. St. Charles chased the lead, coming close at 11-10. But the Catanzaro and the boys refused to fall into a trap. The Wildcats tore off a 7-4 run to capture control of the set. Two Cardinal errors and kills by Teddy Koncelik and Eric Larsen cemented the victory at 25-19.
The rubber match looked more like the first set than the second. The teams battled to a draw at 9-9 and 12-12. The Cards seemed to capture the field with a 6-2 charge, but Catanzaro carried the Wildcats to striking distance. The senior tallied three tips and a kill, aided by expert serving and setting by Vince Holzheimer. The Wildcats powered through to a 21-20 lead, stunning their foes.
In the final stages, Boeckman and Catanzaro dueled with the Cardinals to 23-23 draw. After a Cardinal kill, the Wildcats rocketed forward for three straight points, all Boeckman kills for a 26-24 victory.
This is the type of win that can define a season.
"Phil took them on his shoulders and willed them to win," said assistant coach Anne Kent. "He had 26 kills in the match. I don’t know the record in a 3-set match, but it should be close. Andrew (10) and Teddy (9) contributed, too. It was a solid team win, with some really strong rallies."
The Wildcats played with a different lineup in the finals against Gahanna Lincoln. Three of the Wildcats' starters had to leave early in order to make it back home in time for the Magnificat prom. Even with a younger lineup, the Wildcats nearly defeated the Columbus squad. But in the end, the Cats suffered two straight losses, 25-21 and 25-20.
Even still, the Wildcats had plenty of reasons to be happy with the weekend.
"It was a great experience for the guys coming in," Kent said. "It was a bit of a preview of what the team could look like next year."
Looking ahead, the Wildcats will head down I-71 on Monday for a contest against the Brunswick Blue Devils. The team will then prepare for Massillon Perry on Wednesday in Sullivan Gym.