Sometimes the first round of the playoffs is about coming out focused, doing what you should, and set the stage for subsequent rounds.
The St. Joseph’s volleyball team did all of that Wednesday night when it dispatched Ware Shoals 3-0 in the first round of the Class A playoffs. The Knights (32-6-1) will host either McBee or Ridge Spring-Monetta in a second-round game Monday at 6 p.m.
“When playoffs roll around, they just seem to realize that you’ve got to be focused,” said Jan Carino, the coach who has led St. Joseph’s to four Class A state titles in a row. “We had a talk about (not begin focused). Going into the playoffs, we have to play every match as if it’s a state championship game. You have to be focused for every match.”
While focus is important, Carino also wants the players to have fun.
“They play better when they stay loose and they don’t get all nervous and tense up,” she said. “I always try to tell them, ‘have fun.’ Play hard but have fun.”
Paced by their outside hitters and solid serves, the Knights surrendered just 15 points in the three sets.
In the first set, sophomore Allison Whitten produced a kill that propelled a St. Joseph’s run to a 6-1 lead. Then, three aces by Katie Culumovic sparked a seven-point run to give the Knights a 13-2 advantage. Whitten finished off a 25-6 win with kills for the last two points.
The second set went much the same way. Leah Saunders and Kyra Thompson joined Whitten in making kills. Sydney Nobarak’s kills ended the second at the same 25-6 count.
St. Joseph’s needed just four servers to capture the third set 25-3. Thompson and Saunders combined to directly generate six of the Knights’ last 14 points in the set.
“Going through the playoffs, we’re probably going to see some of the other teams out of our region,” Carino said. “They’re all competitive. We definitely have to be ready when we meet them.”