Opponents will begin to pay if they take a deep breath when Rachel Londot leaves the front row.
Londot, Utica’s senior standout, still can attack from anywhere on the court. But she has help from friends this season. Northridge found out the hard way Thursday as the Redskins rolled to their third consecutive sweep, 25-12, 25-16, 25-5, and have thrown their hat into the ring for Licking County League contention.
Utica (3-0, 2-0) was so dominant in the third set Londot never made it back to the front row. She had a team-high 12 kills for the match, and sophomore sister Alyson Londot followed with 11. Lauren Marolt and Shelby Francis combined for seven more in the middle.
“I love building everybody else’s confidence up, so we are all working together, making good plays and helping each other out,” Rachel Londot said. “Last year, we were all timid and weren’t really sure of ourselves. This year, we are all determined to win. We are going to work hard and get after it.”
The Redskins were unable to crack into the top half of the LCL standings in 2013, finishing at 8-10 in conference play. It did benefit Utica in the postseason as they reached a Division III district semifinal.
After what was a strong preseason, including a victory against Gahanna on Aug. 15 during the Newark Catholic preview, the Redskins have their first chances to make a statement starting next week when they start a stretch of Granville, Lakewood, Heath and NC consecutively.
“We are a lot better than we were last year,” Marolt said. “We are a lot stronger mentally and physically. We work more as a team, and we have a greater chance than we did last year to get into that mix.”
Much of the Redskins’ success against the Vikings came right from the serve. Six Utica players totaled its 16 aces, and it made just three errors.
Alyson Londot had a run of three consecutive aces to help the Redskins pull away in the first set. Phoebe Carr’s two came in the second set, and Brittney Potes had two in a match-clinching run of nine consecutive points to finish off the third.
Northridge’s Savannah Legg and Jamie Swickard prepare to block as Utica’s Brooke Maxwell sets up a teammate for a hit. The Redskins defeated the Vikings in three straight sets on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014
“We practice serving every day,” Utica coach Laurie Londot said. “We know we don’t have a lot of size. In order to attack and run our offense, we have to have a strong first ball, and it starts with the serve.”
Northridge (1-1, 1-1) was sent to the other end of the spectrum after sweeping Johnstown in the season opener Tuesday. Savannah Legg led the Vikings with five kills but she just did not get enough opportunities. Hunter Adkins added two aces.
“It was the serve reception,” Northridge coach John Smith said. “They had a couple good servers. They had some nice floaters that move well and are hard to dig. We did OK when we got the ball up against them. For us, it was the serve reception, and let’s be frank: both (Londots) are nice hitters.”
Brooke Maxwell had 18 assists and Potes added nine for the Redskins, whose setters are finding their options to be more plentiful.
“When one of us messes up, we are there to help each other out,” Marolt said. “That makes us get a good pass, a good set and a good hit to get the kill.”