DELAWARE – Anything that could have gone right, did go right for the Olentangy Berlin girls volleyball team.
Well, anything after the midway point of the first set.
The Bears responded to a Thomas Worthington 7-0 run in the first set with 10 straight of their own and rolled from there to a 25-15, 25-7, 25-7 win in OCC-Cardinal play Thursday night.
“I think we all just worked together,” Berlin sophomore Lauren Young said. “We really meshed well together. We were in it tonight.”
Thomas coach Natalie Walter called it a “perfect storm.”
“We definitely have some youth,” she said. “We’re missing some of our more experienced players. It was a jumbling of lineups – we weren’t really where we needed to be. It was a perfect storm. (Berlin) is a really scrappy team and they picked apart some of our more inexperienced players. They did a really nice job.”
“Yeah – I feel like this was one of those nights where everything was clicking,” Berlin coach Dana Stearns said.
For the Bears, it was a much-needed result. Stearns saw improvement in her team from its inaugural season last year. But the improvement hadn’t shown in terms of wins in the first two games.
“We needed tonight,” she said. “We needed to come out and show that we can play. They weren’t putting the pieces together to win (the first two matches). It’s just a big turnaround for us. They’ve worked hard, so they deserve it.”
Lily Beier served up three aces and Kaleigh Palmer had a kill and a block during a 7-0 run in the first set that gave the Cardinals (2-3, 1-3) a 12-9 lead.
“It was definitely an energy situation,” Walter said. “When our energy is up – we can definitely ride that. We relied on some of our more experienced players. We had some good defensive moves and that sort of propelled us forward.”
Berlin got a spark from a pair of players that weren’t on last year’s roster.
Faith Hawkins ended Thomas’ run with a kill and followed with an ace and Rozalyn Zielinski followed with a block and a kill to give the Bears (1-2, 1-2) the lead.
Hawkins added one more ace and Zielinski, Young and Morgan Lenix scored on consecutive points to cap a 10-0 rally and the Bears never looked back.
“That was really big for us,” Stearns said. “When the other team makes runs we let them string together too many points and we can’t get ourselves together. They were really clicking and fighting (after Thomas’ run) and that was really good for us.”
Hawkins moved in from Texas and Zielinski is a freshman.
“Faith is a really experienced player,” Stearns said. “She played at a really high level. She’s played many years of club (ball) and played in the state of Texas. I know I can kind of throw her into anything. She’s a really smart player.”
The Bears rolled to a lopsided victory in the second thanks to a 19-3 run to close the set and followed with a 10-2 rally to start the third.
Zielinski had 10 kills and Young added eight to lead Berlin. Jenna Boucher led the Bears with 12 digs and Shelby Buck – Berlin’s only senior – added eight.
“(Elise Brown) set a very smart match,” Stearns said. “She set for us last year. She’s only a sophomore, but she’s a kid that has a lot of experience … she’s a smart player.
“Lauren is an exceptional athlete. She’s stepped up her game in a huge way for us this season – especially with Heather (Higgins) getting injured this season. (Young) is a go-to for us. She’s a consistent leader for us that just gets it done.”
Next up, Berlin continues league play Tuesday night with a trip to Hilliard Darby, which is scheduled to start at 6:45 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.