DeGRAFF — Lehman Catholic started the season with a strong nonconference schedule to try and better prepare for its Three Rivers Conference slate. It appears to have been a good strategy.
The Cavaliers beat Riverside 24-26, 25-16, 25-9, 25-18 on Thursday to win their second consecutive TRC match and improve to 5-5 overall and 3-1 in TRC play.
Lehman struggled to an 8-14 overall finish last year and 6-8 conference finish in the first year of the TRC.
The Cavaliers were extremely young last season and are relatively young again this season, with most the roster being made of sophomores and juniors.
They lost their first three matches and fell to 1-4 overall with a 3-0 loss to Miami East on Sept. 1.
But Lehman has won four of its last five matches, all of which have occurred in the last week.
“We’re playing really well and have pushed through a lot of growing pains,” fourth-year coach Carolyn Dammeyer said. “We play a tough schedule right off the bat to start the season, which I think is good for us. We know what we have to compete against. I think all those tough matches help us to play better.”
Lehman’s hot streak started last Saturday in its Labor Day tournament with a 2-1 win over Fairlawn, which beat the Cavaliers 3-1 in a season opener on Aug. 20.
Lehman lost 2-0 to Frankfort Adena in its second game of the tournament but beat Norwalk St. Paul 2-1 in its final match. The squad beat Bethel 3-0 in a TRC match on Tuesday before Thursday’s match against Riverside.
The two squads battled throughout the first set on Thursday. Lehman built up a late lead but Riverside scored the last four points to rally and win 26-24.
Lehman pulled away late in the second set, then rattled off 10 consecutive points in the middle of the third set to pull away to a 25-9 win. The squads battled early in the fourth game before Lehman pulled away late.
“We’re not making as many mistakes as we did early in the season,” Dammeyer said. “Our serve receive is good. We’re very well-rounded on offense and have some tough serving. We kind of fell apart there in serve receive in the very first set tonight, but we turned it around after that.”
Sophomore outside hitter Kailee Rank has made a team-high 92 kills while junior middle hitter Marissa Corner has made 81 and junior outside hitter Taylor Geise has made 66. Corner has made a team-high 28 blocks.
Senior setter Caroline Wesner has led the squad with 299 assists and also has made 19 blocks and a team-high 16 aces.
Geise leads the team with 111 digs while Rank and Corner each have made 81.
“We only have two seniors that play, and while we’re still pretty young, a lot of the girls played last year,” Dammeyer said. “They’re a year more mature, and I think that’s showing.”
Riverside improving with many new players
Riverside won the inaugural TRC title last season but is trying to regroup this season after having lost several key players to graduation, including hitters Jenna Woods and Sasha Stotler, who had 372 kills and 334, respectively, a year ago. Woods is now playing collegiately at Bluffton while Stotler is playing at Rutgers.
Morgan Robison has taken over as the program’s coach in place of Candice Woods.
The Pirates (3-6, 2-2 TRC) started 1-4 but had posted conference wins over Dayton Northridge and Troy Christian in the last week before losing to Lehman on Thursday.
The squad has one key returnee back in senior outside hitter/defensive specialist Jade Copas, who ranks fifth among TRC players with 61 kills to her credit. She has also made a team-best 95 digs.
Also back is senior setter/right-side hitter Alaina Snow, who has made 74 assists and 73 digs.
Riverside is scheduled to travel to Houston on Saturday before traveling to TRC favorite Miami East on Tuesday.
Rough few days for Russia
Russia picked up several nonconference losses to Midwest Athletic Conference squads in a stretch of four days.
The Raiders lost 25-19, 19-25, 25-17 to St. Henry in their opening match in the St. Henry Redskin Invitational last Saturday, then lost 27-25, 23-25, 25-19 to Fort Recovery. The squad earned a 2-0 win over Buckeye Central to finish the invitational.
Russia then followed Tuesday with another close loss to MAC squad. The Raiders traveled to Marion Local and fell 22-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-25, 20-18.
Russia bounced back with a 3-0 win over Anna on Thursday to improve to 7-4 overall. The Raiders and Fort Loramie (7-2) remain tied for first place in the Shelby County Athletic League with 4-0 records.
Strong start for Fairlawn’s Swearingen
Fairlawn junior middle hitter Addison Swearingen is off to a strong start this season.
Swearignen has 107 kills to her credit and currently ranks second among SCAL players. She ranks third among the league’s players with 120 digs.
Swearingen, who was an honorable mention all-SCAL selection last year, also has had a team-best 136 serve receives.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.