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Big Red rallies to claim city championship in five set battle

STEUBENVILLE — Believing in yourself is a big part of the battle.

Trailing 8-4 in the fifth game, the Big Red volleyball team flipped the switch against Catholic Central as Big Red tallied 11 of the final 14 points to rally to win the game and the match, 25-20, 23-25, 25-19, 23-25, 15-11, to lock up the city championship Saturday afternoon inside the Crimson Center.

“We struggled with our energy off and on and our confidence,” Big Red (5-4) head coach Kristin Taylor said.

“When we are consistent and everybody is communicating and we are playing aggressive, we can’t be beat.”

The Crusaders had the momentum on their side and appeared to be on their way to winning the match and earning a split in the season series, however, Big Red was able to turn the tide, regain the momentum and go on to sweep the season series.

“I always tell the girls volleyball is a game of momentum,” first-year Catholic Central (7-5) head coach Jenna Ogden said. “When you lose the momentum, it is tough to get it back. We lost the momentum for a couple of minutes, and we weren’t able to get it back. I am proud of the girls. We did play better against Big Red today than we did the first time. I would have loved for us to get a win for our seniors. We just lost the momentum. I am proud of the girls. I am always proud of the girls.”

Catholic Central collected the first two points of Game 5, and the Crusaders increased their advantage to 6-3 forcing Taylor to call timeout.

Trailing 8-4, Big Red regrouped and scored five-straight points to take its first lead of the game forcing Ogden to call timeout. The visitors scored the next point to even the score, however, the hosts scored the next three and did not look back en route to once again claiming the coveted city championship.

“It feels good,” Taylor said about winning the city championship. “I am proud of the girls. They should be proud of themselves. It is always more exciting when you play your city rival. It is a great way to end the week. It gives us momentum going into next week.”

For Big Red, Tori Mitchell tallied 19 points, 22 kills, six blocks and two digs, Maggi Cucarese collected 16 points, eight kills, 36 assists and six digs and Sarah Allen added 19 points, 10 kills and seven digs. Finally, Mea Lulla delivered 14 points, 27 receptions and 17 digs.

For the Crusaders, Clara Symington tallied 25 kills, Haley Cherepko collected 13 assists and Jayda Jones ended up with 27 digs.

Game 1 was close early on, however, Big Red began to pull away as the victors took a 17-12 lead forcing Ogden to call a timeout. Big Red did what they to do down the stretch to win the game and take a 1-0 lead in the match.

Big Red took the lead early in the Game 2 as Catholic Central called a timeout trailing, 9-6. This time, the Crusaders played better down the stretch as the girls in blue stepped it up and pulled out a two-point win to win the game and even the match at 1-1.

Big Red gained started to gain some separation in Game 3 as they took a 15-11 lead. The Crusaders called a timeout in an attempt tp turn things around, however, Big Red increased its advantage and went on to win the game to regain the lead in the match at 2-1.

The Crusaders called a timeout down 7-3 in Game 4, and their girls responded as they ripped off a 13-3 run forcing Taylor to call a timeout. Catholic Central’s lead grew to 17-10, however, Big Red stormed back and even the score at 19-19. Big Red put themselves in position to win the game and the match, however, Catholic Central did what it needed to do in the closing moments of the game to once again win by two and once again even up the match setting the stage for a fifth and deciding game.

“We have been playing very well,” Ogden said. “We are 7-5. We had a six-game winning streak. We are a good team. We are going to keep playing hard. This is not the end of the season. It is a long season. We have a lot of games left to win.”

Big Red swept the Crusaders Aug. 24 inside the Mickey Barber Gymnasium, but this time the Crusaders put up quite a fight as Catholic Central had Big Red on the brink late in the match.

“Central had a lot better coverage in this game,” Taylor said. “They attacked the ball a lot better. We had a few bouts of miscommunication with their tips and pushes. It seems like we had more trouble with the easy ones than we did with their attacks. They definitely attacked better.”

The Crusaders certainly did not play up to their standards in the first match.

“They definitely handled Clara Symington — No. 10 — very well,” Ogden said. “She is definitely our big weapon. They did a good job defensively against her. We definitely played more as a cohesive unit today. That almost led us to having success, but at the end we were not able to win the match.”

Big Red is scheduled to play Carrollton Monday at home. The jayvee match will start at 5:30 p.m.

Catholic Central is slated to play Wellsville Monday on the road. The jayvee match is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.

“This was a combination of our last two matches,” Taylor said. “As a coach, I want them to come every day with the belief that they can beat anybody. I believe they can. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day. We just have to have the mindset that we are going to win, that we are going to dominate at the night and we are going to be aggressive. We just need them all to believe that every single day.”

NOTE

• Prior to the start of the match, a moment of silence was held in memory of Edison teacher and head volleyball and head track coach Todd Smith, who died Friday. Smith also served as the school’s assistant athletic director.

“We were sad to hear the news about Coach Todd Smith,” Taylor said. “One of our players on our team — Sena Smith — he was her uncle. On behalf of the volleyball team and all of the Steubenville City Schools, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Edison Nation. Our prayers go out everyone at Edison. We were deeply sorry to hear about Coach Smith.”

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