The Volleyball Cats opened up OHSBVA Tournament play on Tuesday against the Brunswick Blue Devils inside Sullivan Gym. The Wildcats came in fresh off a 3-0 win against their rival St. Edward Eagles to wrap up the regular season with a 12-9 record. On Tuesday night, the Blue and Gold appeared as a State Championship contender, with their integral players returning to the lineup in the late stretch of the season.
The Wildcats opened up play in the Regional Semifinal vs. the Blue Devils with a 25-8 set win to set the tone on the night. Senior captain James Thoma played near perfect and was a momentum builder for the Cats achieving two aces in the set one, including the match point with a beautifully placed loft serve that Brunswick was not expecting to take a 1-0 match lead in the Regional Semifinal.
Set two was a closer battle between the Wildcats and Blue Devils as, in the early goings, the advantage trended back and forth. Brunswick led early on with a 7-6 lead and made adjustments after the opening set. Senior captain Andrew Boeckman has been a critical piece for Head Volleyball Coach Dominick Adornato's Wildcats after returning from injury. Boeckman shook the gym with a monstrous spike to regain the lead and momentum in the second set.
After a Patrick O'Neill spike, the Cats led the Blue Devils 16-10 in set two. After Brunswick closed the gap to a 20-16, the Wildcats shut the door with a 5-0 run as another O'Neill spike gave the Wildcats a 25-16 victory and a 2-0 match lead in the Regional Semifinal.
As it has been the case all season long for the Wildcats, they play a high-energy brand of volleyball no matter the score and that continued into set three. The Blue and Gold took an early 11-4 lead as senior Billy Jerse notched an Ace. With the Wildcats leading Brunswick 17-9 in set three, arguably one of the most impressive plays took place. William Kander's spike was blocked and it appeared as Brunswick would gain a point, but Thoma came flying in to make contact on the ball to keep it in play and O'Neill would gain a point for the Wildcats on a kill.
"Part of my job as Libero is to cover the hitters," says Thoma. "I saw the ball go down and it was an instinct thing; I dove for it and popped it up."
The Wildcats would shut the door on Brunswick after a Danny Salem block to secure a 25-12 set three win and sweep Brunswick in three sets. "We're absolutely pumped," expresses Thoma after the win. "Everyone has stepped up at every practice and every match."
Ed's vs. Saint Ignatius trilogy in volleyball will occur at Massillon Jackson High School as the Wildcats seek a berth in the State Tournament. The OHSBVA will be live streaming the contest and will be linked on our SIBN page as the Cats take on the Eagles at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. The stream will be pay-per-view for $5.99 on the OHSBVA website.