NEWARK — Newark Catholic’s players pride themselves on versatility.
It was on full display Thursday as the Green Wave overcame the absence of one its top players and dispatched visiting Utica 25-21, 25-20, 25-22 in an early Licking County League Cardinal Division showdown.
Junior middle hitter Mary Brigid Keck had been sick all week and was only able to play the first set. Not to worry. NC (7-0, 4-0) merely shuffled things around and made it work against the scrappy Redskins (9-2, 2-1).
“For all the chaos created by that hole, we handled it pretty well,” coach Jeri Helfer said. “We moved Megan Stanton to the middle, and it took everybody. We’re still trying to figure it out. We used multiple sets, and this was the first night we used a libero.”
Stanton took the move in stride.
“I consider myself an all-around player and can still get the ball in the right places,” she said after finishing with 17 assists and 11 digs. “It helps that we’re all all-around players who can step up and play any position.”
Senior Taylor Daignault pounded 18 kills and had 13 digs for NC. Freshman Samantha Basham added eight kills and a block, while senior Christina Joyce had six kills and junior Annie Haefs, called up from the reserve team, contributed 10 assists.
“We love it when she gets to come up,” Daignault said. “We’re still trying to find our prime lineup, but with any lineup we put out there, we’re still finding that energy. Megan did a really good job playing the middle.”
Alyson Londot served three early aces and Brooke Maxwell had a pair as Utica jumped ahead 16-11 in the first set. But with Hannah Mummey serving, NC reeled off seven consecutive points to seize back momentum. Stanton and Basham teamed for a block and Daignault had a kill to finish it off.
Haefs had a crucial dig and some nice assists in the second set as the Green Wave led most of the way. But the Redskins weren’t going quietly. Londot and Carli Conard each had a pair of kills as Utica fought back to lead 17-15 in the third set, only to see NC rally again.
“A few plays here and there, and it’s a different game,” said Utica coach Laurie Londot. “We made some aggressive errors, and I can’t fault the effort. This is probably the most unselfish group I’ve had. They want to win for each other so bad. I keep telling them that they need to relax and have fun.”
Alyson Londot had had three aces, 12 kills and 11 digs for the Redskins. Maxwell added two aces, nine assists and eight digs. Conard had five kills and Elizabeth Pritchard four, while libero Reagan Peters had 11 digs and Josie Bandy 15 assists.
“Defensively, we played well,” Helfer said. “We wanted to keep the ball away from Alyson as much as we could. She’s just a great player.”
Daignault said the Green Wave understood the importance of the match, and so did their Wave Pool student section. For their part, Utica’s students also came out in force.
“We got focused and came out with an attitude,” Daignault said. “We have a really good student section, and it helps us so much.”
“I think the LCL brings out the best in all the teams,” Stanton said.