(Cover photo: The Presentation Toppers celebrate their All “A” title victory, Aug. 23, 2016. Credit: Conor Revell)
Presentation’s volleyball team didn’t need much motivation as the journey towards defending its All “A” Classic Statewide title started Tuesday night.
The Toppers swept visiting Holy Cross 25-17, 25-18 to win its second straight All “A” Sixth Region title in front of a packed house.
“I told them that we needed to relax before the game,” Presentation head coach Tom Sawyer said. “On paper we knew we were the better team but it’s a rivalry game and stranger things have happened. We don’t play the game on paper. I told them to get out there, make the adjustments on the blocks and funnel the ball on defense. Our defense played very well tonight and our hitters were on.”
Presentation (3-1) has now won the All “A” Sixth Region Tournament four times in the past five seasons. Holy Cross (3-2) won the regional title in 2014.
“I think all of us were ready for tonight,” Pres setter Jalen Story said. “After winning last year, it was an awesome feeling and we knew we wanted to experience that again.”
While Holy Cross has a strong offensive front headlined by seniors Beth Newton and Hannah Bickel, the Toppers defense led by libero Jenna Story, was just too much.
“We have used a different lineup every game so far this season,” Holy Cross head coach Danielle Wiegandt said. “We’re still trying to find the right lineup and the right kind of chemistry. It’s still a work in a work progress, we’re getting closer though.”
Presentation delivered 27 kills while the Cougars only managed to punch away 17 kills. Junior Peyton McClinton led the Toppers with nine kills.
Sophomore Sophie Ball was a force to be reckoned with in the first set as she delivered a game high five kills for Pres.
“Sophie is playing really well right now,” Sawyer said. “We were excited about bringing her up to the varsity team. That’s why she’s there. She spies the block. She gives us a place there on the right. She’s playing phenominal for only being a sophomore.”
Ball is playing at the outside hitter spot, a place where last year’s All “A” MVP Savannah Moss played.
“I kind of feel like I’m replacing her,” Ball said. “Since she left the team, they’ve been looking for somebody to fill that spot.”
Cassie Jones added five kills while Lauren Nunnelley fired away three kills.
Newton led the Cougars with six kills while Bickel added four and Brittany Rickert finished with three kills.
“We knew that their defense was a little bit better than ours,” Newton said. “They are a really scrappy team and we were hoping to capitalize with our offense. But, they were scrappier than us and that’s why I think they came out with the win.”
The first set was intense during the early going as the two teams fought through seven ties. With the score tied at 12, Jenna Story delivered a kill and the Toppers never trailed again as they won 13 of the final 18 points.
“We read around the block well,” Jenna Story said. “They have set blocks so we were able to go around that. If we got a couple of blocks we were able do what we needed to get done.”
Holy Cross never led in the second set although the Cougars trailed by one point five times. The last time was when Pres nursed an 11-10 lead.
“We both have a lot of seniors,” Wiegandt said. “I think they’re a better defensive team than we are. I believe we have a better offensive team but at the end of the day, defense is always going to trump the offense in any sport. They don’t say defense wins championships for nothing. That’s not where the highlights come from but we have to get better defensively.”
Pres then scored three straight points and never led by less than three points the rest of the way.
“I think we have to play as a team and everybody has to do their job,” Jalen Story said. “If we do that then that will help us play well.”