Slow start too much for Geibel volleyball to overcome in playoff loss to Laurel
For the majority of Tuesday's WPIAL Class A preliminary-round playoff volleyball match between Geibel and Laurel at North Allegheny, the Gators and Spartans played on even terms.
The exception was the first set, and it proved to be a huge difference-maker.
Geibel came out flat in the first set, and it cost the Gators dearly as the Spartans picked up the five-set win, 25-10, 25-27, 26-24, 20-25, 15-12.
“We came out stiff as a board,” Geibel coach Rick Watkins said. “We were competitive in the final four sets, but to throw one away like that puts you in a deep hole.”
The Gators (8-6) did their best to dig out of that hole, but too many times Geibel buried itself again.
“We had more unforced errors than they did in every game,” Watkins said. “That's tough when you're giving points away.
“When we played without errors, I thought we did a heck of a job. I just wish we could have been a little more consistent with it.”
Geibel couldn't get anything going in the first set, and Laurel raced out to an 8-0 lead. Kills by Mackenzie Mraz and Rachael Baker helped stake the Spartans to a big lead early.
Despite his team being dominant in the first set, Laurel coach Joe Maslyk knew the Gators wouldn't go quietly.
“It's never easy,” Maslyk said. “After the first game, I think our intensity dropped, but one of the things about these girls is that they will fight, and I'm happy that they were able to fight and pull out the win.”
The Gators recovered in the second set. Rachel Elias helped Geibel even the match at a game apiece with a couple of big blocks then finished the second set with back-to-back kills.
In the third set, Riley Bocan knocked down three aces to give the Gators a 16-12 lead. But Laurel regrouped and tied it before Mraz came up with a kill, and Ellen Shaffer gave the Spartans a 2-1 lead in games with a set-deciding tip.
Again, Geibel responded. In the fourth set, strong net play by Bocan and Haley Solan gave Geibel a 15-10 lead. Laurel came back, but Solan delivered a kill to give Geibel a 20-18 edge, and the Gators went on to even the match and force a fifth set.
Geibel jumped to a 2-0 lead in the final set, but Laurel was too much, and a big kill down the stretch by Baker helped the Spartans advance.
For the Gators, the season comes to an end, but Watkins isn't judging his team on its record.
“I've always cared about the team more than whether they won or lost,” Watkins said. “I love these kids.
“This is a good group, and I'm proud of them.”
Elias finished with a team-high 20 kills and 26 digs. Solan also had a big match with 25 digs, nine kills, eight assists and four aces. Ashley Tomasko led Geibel with 35 assists, and Bocan was strong from the line, serving seven aces.
Mraz led Laurel with 13 kills and added 15 points and eight digs. Baker netted nine kills to go along with eight points and seven digs. Allyson Kendall led the Spartans (13-5) with 22 digs and 19 points, and Kristan Fedrizzi added 14 points.
Laurel advances to a first-round match against second-seeded Greensburg Central Catholic at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Freeport.
“I hope we come out and play aggressive,” Maslyk said. “If we can get through another round, that would be even better.”
Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at email@example.com.