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Weir volleyball beats Madonna in city championship tune-up

BACK AND FORTH — Weir High’s Ziona Barnes attempts to tip the ball over Madonna’s Morgan Owens during Tuesday’s match. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WEIRTON — Many firsts occurred Tuesday evening in another chapter of the Weir High-Madonna volleyball rivalry.

It was not for the city championship, but it was another tense and competitive affair that never disappoints.

A pair of first-year head coaches got their first taste in the rivalry. Francesca Capaldi and the Red Riders were looking for their first win, while Theresa Moore and the Blue Dons hoped to avoid their first defeat.

It first appeared as though Madonna would really celebrate senior night after taking a two-set advantage. After that, however, something clicked on the other side, and Weir High carried that until the very end.

Capaldi earned her first win as head coach during an improbable comeback, 22-25, 20-25, 25-14, 25-17, 15-12. It easily was Weir High’s best performance this season.

“I think it just came down to us wanting to win. We needed to get out of the hole that we were in,” Capaldi said. “We’ve been working on finishing the game, and that was our issue in our first five games. We would get ahead of teams, but then it was a snowball effect where one mistake led to another.”

The Red Riders (1-5) made numerous mistakes early on, especially in the second set. Yet, they only lost by two and five points.

Shorty before the third set began, senior Blaire McUmar turned things around and put the team on her back. Then it was Madonna (2-1) making one crucial mistake after another, while Weir High found consistency.

“I think that we got into our own heads,” Moore said. “We beat ourselves, and it became a mental battle. We weren’t mentally tough enough to pull through.”

Weir High dominated the third set. In the fourth, the score once stood at 11-11 before the Red Riders tallied seven unanswered points that led them to the win.

During the fifth and final set, some controversy propelled Weir High and drained Madonna. With the Red Riders leading by a slim margin late, McUmar was awarded a kill shot. The ball appeared to hit the top of the net, but the referees said it ricocheted off a Madonna player attempting to block.

Whether it was the correct call or not, the Blue Dons could not let it go, and the Red Riders took full advantage.

“I think tonight is the turning point. I think we finally found our groove,” Capaldi said. “I think tonight really put us there, and it’s the start of it.”

Weir High has been trying to find a groove all season. And, under the circumstances of not just the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to see why. Capaldi, a Catholic Central graduate, was hired as head coach roughly one week before the season began.

Despite not being from Weirton, Capaldi understands the rivalry. As for Moore, she is brand new to the situation. She originally is from Delaware and later attended Franciscan University of Steubenville.

“A lot of my older siblings went to Franciscan,” she said. “I kept hearing about how exciting Weir games are, so I was excited to be a part of it. It obviously wasn’t the same because there aren’t as many fans, but I thrive off stuff like that. I hope our girls can do the same next time we play them (on Oct. 20). I loved it.”

McUmar finished the night with eight kills and two aces. Baylei Mills tallied an ace, one assist, two kills and two blocks. Chesney Tice delivered 17 assists, while Ziona Barnes added three aces and nine kills.

“I’ve been looking for (McUmar) to step up,” Capaldi said. “She’s one of the ones I can look to get them in the zone. They kind of play off of her mentality. If she’s off, everyone’s off. But, if she’s on, we’re going to have a good game.”

For the Blue Dons, Landry Bone had 13 kills, 12 blocks, four digs and five assists. Brianna Glosser tallied six kills, six assists and five digs. Marianna Martinez produced five aces, six kills and four blocks.

SENIOR CELEBRATION

The Blue Dons honored their five seniors before the contest. They are Martinez, Adrianna Lenhart, Maddi Daugherty, Miranda Sole and Michaela Battista.

“Win or lose, we were here to honor our seniors and the way they’ve been playing tough this whole time,” Moore said. “This wasn’t the best circumstance to have a senior night, but at least they had one. I told them to appreciate everything they have because the season can be canceled tomorrow. I’m proud of our seniors, and I’m glad we had a chance to honor them.”

UP NEXT

Weir High: Hosts St. Clairsville at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Madonna: Travels to Beallsville on Thursday.

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