By Nelson Coffin
Until last year, Maryvale’s volleyball team had a history of tough sledding against Notre Dame Prep, dropping five consecutive matches and being swept four times.
The Lions turned the tables on the Blazers last season after falling in the first match, then they swept NDP in the longtime rivals’ second meeting of the season.
Just when it seemed Maryvale had things going in the right direction, the Blazers knocked off the Lions, 3-0, in an A Conference quarterfinal battle last October.
Maybe that’s why Maryvale had a little more juice on Tuesday when the teams met for the first time of the new A Conference season in Brooklandville.
The Lions rolled to a convincing 25-20, 25-12, 25-15 triumph, even without 6-foot-2 senior star middle hitter/outside hitter Claire Neff being relegated to the back row rotation while recovering from a torn ACL she suffered in May and underwent surgery for in June.
Without Neff in her normal position, other players have had to up their game for the Lions.
They include 6-foot senior middle hitter Caroline Burke, 6-foot-1 junior middle hitter/outside hitter Rory Kenny, 5-foot-11 junior middle hitter/outside hitter Lauren Mayor, junior setter Sophie Savick, freshman outside hitter Athena Savick and 5-foot-10 outside hitter Caitlin Shaffrey.
All of them, along with senior outside hitter Megan Weininger, junior setter Raezel Valencia, sophomore defensive specialist/setter LeeAnn Daiker and freshman outside hitter Libby Potter, posed too much of a problem for the visitors.
“We weren’t able to run our offense, and they were able to run their offense,” NDP coach Amanda Slone said. “They were hitting the ball harder than we were.”
Slone said that NDP senior tri-captain Hannah Einbrod had a “solid” game, although the Blazers’ passing game never really got into much of a rhythm.
And several times when it did, Maryvale would come up with a key dig or block to thwart the effort.
Kenny led the way for the Lions’ defense with eight blocks, three of which were kills. Athena Savick had eight digs while Valencia chipped in with five.
Shaffrey paced the offense with 12 kills and Sophie Savick recorded 21 assists with four kills, four digs, three aces and a block.
All in all, it was a terrific performance for a Maryvale team that was swept by St. Paul’s School for Girls in its season-opener last week.
That the bounce-back came against the Blazers was sweet for the Lions after the 2018 quarterfinal setback.
“We remembered last year, so this was kind of retaliation,” Shaffrey said. “We were out for revenge. We were really hyped up. It was a little rough in the first set, but it was good after that.”
Maryvale coach Missy Little said that missing Neff in the front row has been a challenge that the team is dealing with as best it can.
“We worked really hard on defense in practice this week,” she said. “And without Claire we have a different offense. We’ve had to spread things around a lot more. But I’ve still felt really confident the way the team is coalescing. It’s brining us together.”