In a battle of North Region volleyball heavyweights, Saint Ignatius claimed superiority on Thursday in Murphy Gym.
The Wildcats delivered a message for the region and state, sweeping Massillon Jackson in three sets – 25-15, 25-13, 25-19. The win marked the second of the season over the Polar Bears after Saint Ignatius won at Jackson, 3-1, earlier in the year.
Advancing to 13-7 on the year, the Volleyball Cats likely locked up the No. 1 seed in the OHSBVA North Region Tournament.
From the very beginning, the Wildcats played like the dominant team. The men of Ohio City fired out to a 6-2 lead in the first set, with Teddy Koncelik, Alex Heath, Andrew Boeckman, and Eric Larsen all providing kills. The Wildcats continued to pressure the Polar Bears, ripping off a 9-3 run to lasso a 15-6 lead and force a Jackson timeout.
Stellar play at the net by Koncelik, Heath, and Boeckman helped the Wildcats approach 25 points. Phil Catanzaro provided the finishing touches with kills on the final two points, adding an exclamation point to a 25-15 conquest that saw the Wildcats beat the Polar Bears in kills, 14-3.
A strong netfront presence, along with superb digging and setting by the backline, allowed the Wildcats to dominate the second set, following a slow start. Jackson leaped out to a 4-2 lead before the Wildcats turned on the jets, bursting to a 9-2 run. Errors plagued the Polar Bears and the Wildcats did not allow any breathing room, leading at 16-10.
In the later stages of the second stanza, Koncelik and Boeckman took the reins. Koncelik hammered down two kills and an ace, while Boeckman tallied several points to cement a 25-13 victory in the second. An advantage of 13-4 in kills again paved the way for the win.
The third set proved to be the most difficult for the Wildcats. The hosts played behind for much of the set, and errors hampered the Cats, with 11 in all.
Jackson built an early 3-1 lead and did not relinquish it until the latter stages of the set. On several occasions, the Wildcats drew within one point, with Vince Holzheimer, Koncelik, Boeckman, and Co. doing great work. But errors and focused play by Jackson thwarted the Wildcats time and time again.
Trailing 16-11, the Wildcats kicked it into high gear. Boeckman and Catanzaro seized control of the game and did not let go. After a James Thoma ace, Boeckman knotted the game at 17 with a thunderous kill. Catanzaro and Boeckman each notched a kill before a Jackson spike tied it at 19.
The Wildcats dominated the rest of the way.
Catanzaro played the role of Brad Hand for the Wildcats. His hard-hit serves placed the pressure on Jackson, and the visitors could not respond. Catanzaro started a fun with an ace, added a Boeckman kill, and drove the final nail in the coffin with two kills on the last two points, completing a 6-0 run and a 25-19 set victory.
After trailing 16-11, the Wildcats tore off an impressive 14-3 run to complete the clean sweep.
"This was one of the more complete games, especially in game one and game two, that we've played [this season]," said Head Coach Jacob Layden. "Heath had some nice blocks and stepped up in the first. Phil steadied us out and closed the game out in game three. This was the first game in a while that he's taken over, because we needed him to in the third. That was huge for us."
Looking ahead, the Wildcats will host Brecksville-Broadview Heights in Murphy Gym on Friday evening. The Volleyball Cats will look to keep improving as the final week of the regular season nears.
Over the course of the game, Boeckman led the team with 14 kills, adding 7 digs. Holzheimer also tallied 7 digs, adding 34 assists. Matthew Rogers lighted the way with 16 digs.
"This is a good, important win for us. We served better than we did against Darby, but we're working on serving still," Layden said. "We'd like a little better connection on the opposite on the 5-ball and a little better connection in the middle, so we'll do some setting work."