Yorktown beats CC London to reach regional quarterfinals
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SINTON - The match was purring along, until the team across the net turned its inexperience into ignorance toward the situation.
Yorktown's volleyball team refocused in time to put away a youthful London team 25-12, 25-20, 25-18 on Saturday afternoon.
Yorktown (24-9) moves on to the regional quarterfinals where they will play San Perlita, the District 32-1A champions, at a time, date and place to be determined.
Sam Niemeier led the Kitty Kats with 11 kills while freshman middle blocker Emily Gwosdz added another seven kills. Setter Victoria Pena provided 24 assists.
Senior Ashlynn Sievers added six kills. However, her bigger role on the day may have been communicating with her teammates during points and keeping their spirits up as London threatened in the final two games.
"All year, we struggled with coming out strong," said Yorktown coach Deirdre Alexander. "We were really excited about the first game because usually we don't come out that strong.
"When we went into the second game, maybe we got a little relaxed, and really we struggled with serve-receive. They had hard serves and we put some of our younger kids in for a second."
Yorktown never trailed in the first game. The Kitty Kats held a 16-9 lead at one stretch of the second game, before the Lady Pirates won nine straight points to stun the District 30-1A champions.
London took a brief 17-16 lead when it hit a free ball to the back row of the Yorktown defense. The Kitty Kats thought the ball would go long - it didn't.
Yorktown quickly retook the lead on a Niemeier kill and a Sievers ace. The Kitty Kats won the final five points of Game 2 with strong serving, pinpoint offense and an occasional error from the Lady Pirates.
London (16-13) did not have upperclassmen. Of the nine girls who took the court Saturday, seven were freshmen. Allie Orta and Mary Kate Williams were sophomores. Head coach
Melinda Horton said the school is continuing to grow and the Lady Pirates will have a junior class next year, before graduating its first seniors in 2015.
Horton compared the playoffs to chocolate. Not a box of chocolate, but the sweet stuff itself.
"I'm hoping we can carry this far. I think those are some of the things we are harping on with the kids," Horton said. "You tasted it. You liked it. Now, get hungry for it. Once you've had chocolate you don't want to let it go. It's kind of the same concept. We've had a taste and we want more. They know understand what's out there."
Yorktown has made the playoffs for 19 straight years, but the Kitty Kats did not have a decided advantage in experience. Sievers and Caitlin Seifert - 1 kill, 1 block - are the only seniors on the team.
Rather than relying on experience to propel them to the regional quarterfinals for the eighth straight year, the Kitty Kats went back to basics.
"Once we called a time out and told the kids 'the reason you got here was because of fundamentals and being disciplined enough to do it correctly,'" Alexander said about the second game. "We reminded them not to freak out and have nerves. We reminded them to play how you always play."