By Jeremy Balan
Convent of the Sacred Heart High School’s girls volleyball team may have just needed a wake-up call to close out Lick-Wilmerding on Tuesday.
After controlling the first two games, the visiting Cubs allowed Lick to rally back, but returned to their dominant form in the deciding fifth game of a 25-17, 25-13, 22-25, 21-25, 15-6 Bay Counties League West win.
“Our challenge the whole season has been to maintain our intensity,” said Convent head coach David Moreno. “I’m not sure what it was, but we definitely needed a kick in the [butt].”
Despite being out-hit by Lick, which scored 42 kills to Convent’s 30, the Cubs (5-1, 1-1) got at least two kills from nine different players, led by six apiece from outside hitter Bianka Quintanilla-Whye and middle blocker Nini Maine.
“Particularly at the beginning of the season, we want to get these kids as much playing time as possible and know that any one of them will be ready for the playoffs,” Moreno said of the Cubs’ frequent substitutions and balanced attack. “We do get a lot of players in there and we expect them to succeed and contribute.”
Convent’s resurgence in the fifth game spoiled a standout performance from Lick sophomore outside hitter Jade Sparks, who carried the Tigers (3-3, 0-1) throughout with a match-high 15 kills, and broke out for six kills and four aces in the fourth game.
“The scary part is that she’s only a sophomore,” Moreno said. “In the middle games, she was the team. She was getting every ball and she was coming down on top of it.”
Sparks, along with junior middle blocker Annie Wilson (who finished with 10 kills), were the only consistent offensive threats for the Tigers, but Lick battled back in the third and fourth games on the play of senior outside hitter Brenda Young. Young was held without a kill in the first two games, but had seven kills in the third and fourth.
“I really feel like I have a few hitters on the floor who can detonate,” said Lick head coach Gary Hodge. “We just need someone to rally around in the tough times, and we’re still looking for that player in a couple of our rotations.”
But ultimately it was the 2-0 hole that burned the Tigers in the end, in which they committed 26 unforced errors.
“We’re still in the process of putting it together and really feel like we’re still making progress,” Hodge said. “The steps may not be as big as we’d like them to be, but I really feel like were really moving forward. We showed the gumption tonight to claw back into [the match], and that was huge.”
Despite the close call, Convent is back in the win column after opening its BCL West season with a disappointing loss to University last week.
“We saw some of the same issues [we had against University], but it was nice to work through that and be successful this time around,” Moreno said.