By Jeremy Balan
Convent of the Sacred Heart High School and Drew split their two regular-season meetings this season, but in the third matchup it was all Cubs.
Fifth-seeded Convent swept the visiting Dragons 25-19, 25-16, 25-15 on Wednesday in the first round of the North Coast Section Division V playoffs.
The win is Convent’s (15-6) first NCS playoff victory since 2006.
“When it comes to the playoffs, it’s about who is the loudest and who works off that energy,” said Convent head coach David Moreno. “When we lost to them, they’re crowd got into it and they steamrolled us. Today, we had that energy.”
The key to the Convent attack was senior setter Emily O’Reilly, who connected with seven different Cubs’ hitters that recorded kills.
“She’s phenomenal and she runs a really hard and fast offense,” Moreno said. “It’s not easy, but everything we’ve thrown at her, she’s picked up. That’s why we can run that offense, because she’s that good.”
O’Reilly’s most efficient targets were the Convent middle blockers, who recorded 18 kills, led by a match-high eight from senior Erika Jesse.
“Our offense was on all cylinders and we were mixing it up a lot,” Moreno said. “We wanted to establish the middle position, not necessarily our middle hitters.”
While the Cubs’ attack thrived, Drew (13-12) never seemed to be in sync, and countless Dragons’ unforced errors extended already-lengthy Convent rallies.
Drew got seven kills apiece from juniors Kenna Kryger and Iris Qasevakatini, but often struggled to get the two big-hitters into positions to strike.
“We had a lot of errors, but they are a good team and were just too quick for us,” said Drew head coach Lindsey Stiles.
The Cubs advance to a quarterfinal matchup against another Bay Counties League West opponent in third-seeded Marin Academy, which defeated Upper Lake 25-5, 25-12, 25-8 in its first-round match. Convent split its two regular-season meetings with Marin Academy, then fell to the Wildcats in the BCL West playoffs.
“It shows that our league is really strong,” Moreno said. “They’ll have a big crowd and to be successful against that team, we really have to hit around their block and really stay steady. We need to keep hitting and keep digging, and whatever team gets frustrated first is going to lose.”