Red Knights, Crusaders spike Red Riders

KILLING IT — Weir’s Gia Fuscardo hits past Steubenville Catholic Central’s Emma Crites on Wednesday. -- Andrew Grimm

WEIRTON — The Weir Red Riders volleyball team played a pair of matches Wednesday night, squaring off with Steubenville Catholic Central before facing Toronto.

While coach Carrie Magnone sees signs of improvement from her squad, it was the Crusaders and Red Knights who came away with victories.

In the first matchup, Weir (1-8) got off to a good start, taking a close first set 25-23. Catholic Central (7-3) got on a roll, however, and cruised to victories in the next three sets to take the opening match 3-1.

“They are improving with a lot of things, but it’s always the final things they can’t get across. It’s the end result we want we can’t get to,” Magnone said. “They’re getting better with their passes. They’re getting better with their coverage. They just can’t put it all together at the right time.

“It’s a puzzle — all the pieces have to go to together. The first set was amazing, they did everything they were supposed to do, and the result was we beat Catholic Central. I never have the same team from the first game to the second even though it’s the same girls. Sooner or later they are going to find it.”

The Crusaders turned an early 3-2 deficit into a lead with an 8-3 run and took control from there, pulling away for a 25-12 set win to even the match at 1-1. The third set was all Crusaders right from the start. Catholic Central started with a 10-2 run to take control early, went on a 6-1 run after Weir used a timeout to try and slow them down, then closed the set on a 9-0 run to take a 2-1 lead in the match by a 25-6 margin.

Weir battled hard to stay alive early in the fourth set, drawing even in a back-and-forth battle seven times and leading three separate times. But after the sides were deadlocked at 14-14, the Crusaders once again took over, finishing on an 11-1 run to take the set 25-15 to close out the match.

“I think our girls were cold that first set,” Catholic Central coach Barb McEndree said. “They sat for 20-25 minutes waiting to play their game. Once we got warmed up I think we were gelling a little better. If we were able to bump, set and spike, we were able to have control. When we weren’t able to, they were able to creep back up and make it a close game.”

For Catholic Central, Grace Godich had 17 kills, a block, 10 digs and four aces. Alissa Burchfield had three digs, 12 kills, three blocks and four aces. Karmen Dibiase had 11 digs, nine assists and two aces. Bonnie Thibault added nine assists, two digs, and four aces.

“Our senior Grace is a very strong spiker, and she had led our team most years,” McEndree said. “Alissa is a junior who transferred in last year, and she’s very good. She can really get us going when she spikes, and she had some awesome spikes. She gets a couple in there, and our whole team gets energized.”

After sitting around waiting for its turn, Toronto (2-7) came out ready to play. The Red Knights took the first set of the second match of the night, a back-and-forth battle, 25-20. Weir at one point held a 12-9 lead after going on a 4-1 run to force a Toronto timeout, but were unable to hang on. Toronto came out of the timeout better, and the sides battled to 18-18 and 19-19 deadlocks before Toronto took over, scoring six of the last seven point to take a 1-0 lead in the match.

The second set again started off as a back-and-forth battle, as the teams exchanged points to an early 6-6 tie. This time it would not take Toronto as long to get going. The Red Knights went on a 6-0 run out of the timeout to force a Weir timeout and carried the momentum through the rest of the set en route to a 25-15 victory to take a 2-0 lead.

Toronto came blazing out of the gate in the third set looking for the sweep, racing out to an 11-1 lead. Weir got back into it with a 6-3 run, but Toronto eventually earned the sweep with a 25-16 third set victory.

“I don’t think it being our second game of the night was that big of a factor,” Magnone said. “The girls condition hard in practice, so they are used to playing in long games. We play a lot of tournaments, so that shouldn’t have been a factor at all.”

Toronto was led by eight kills, five digs and three aces from Jenna Leasure. Jecelyn Merideth had five aces, five digs and a kill. Jamie Anderson had four kills, two aces and two digs. Gina Fogle finished with four digs and three kills.

“We could’ve let (waiting to play) make us a little stagnent, but we didn’t,” Toronto coach Cathie Thomas said. “The girls have really been playing well as a team. They are gelling and learning what their roles are on our team. They’re playing unselfish now, and they are out there having fun.

“We had a rough beginning to the season being in the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference now. There is a lot of competition up there. I told the girls if we keep playing hard, we’re going to win some games, and that’s what we’re doing now. We’re going uphill.”

Weir’s stats were not recorded.

Weir plays Saturday at Buckeye Trail. Catholic Central plays Tuesday at home against Oak Glen. Toronto is at home tonight against Wellsville.