Friday, October 31, 2014

Valley Champs with a Perfect 10
October 17, 2013 by Jamie Ward | No Comments

Mission accomplished.

Cardinal's volleyball team won the Chagrin Valley Conference's Valley Division this season for the first time since 2006, when the Huskies were…

Mission accomplished.

Cardinal’s volleyball team won the Chagrin Valley Conference’s Valley Division this season for the first time since 2006, when the Huskies were co-champions with Berkshire.

There were no pieces of the title to go around in 2013, as the Huskies swept Kirtland, Fairport, Harvey, Newbury and Berkshire for a 10-0 finish.

Each CVC contest, home and away, was one-sided under the best-of-five rally-scoring system. Cardinal lost just one set, making the team 30 of 31, with the single loss coming against the defending champions in Kirtland.

It was a Husky who remembered the old volleyball ways — that dominant period when Cardinal won five straight CVC titles from 1996 to 2000– that led this program back to the top.

“It was four years of hard work, really,” said head coach Lisa Shirkey as her players huddled and laughed around championship cakes, icing smeared around smiles. “It’s surreal.”

Seniors Becca Klein, Kayla Neikirk and Tia Mastascusa were also celebrated their last home match at Cardinal.

“It was a great way to end the season,” Mastascusa said. “Especially so many years of talking about what we want to do accomplish and finally accomplishing it.”

Neikirk and Klein, the libero, have anchored the back row this season.

“It was awesome to finally stop talking about it, like she said,” Klein said, pointing to Mastascusa, “and just doing it. I don’t think we left anything on the court tonight. It paid off.”

“I’m so proud of everyone,” added Neikirk. “We all worked so hard, and we’ve been working for this, and everyone played their game today.”

Klein admitted the seniors cried earlier in the locker room. But the trio was all smiles after the Newbury win.

The Huskies had no problem dispatching the Black Knights, a team that had played Cardinal to a 30-28 second set on Sept. 19, 3-0 in straight sets, 25-13, 25-15 and 25-9.

During matches, coach Shirkey has been smiling quite a bit more these days, even when questioning officials.

“Doesn’t it have to be all the way over? The foot?” she asked an official, whose response was somewhat satisfactory.

The Huskies played the entire match ahead, calling no timeouts and making very few mistakes.

Yet the last two weeks haven’t been all good news. The team lost its starting middle hitter, Caitlyn Lechene, to a season-ending knee injury. The sophomore is lost for the year.

Sophomore Kayli Staric, who is over 6-foot tall, has filled in, Shirkey said.

“We’re not a one-dimensional team, which is nice,” the coach said.

Staric has put in extra time with junior variety coach Lyndsay Cummins, a former Husky player herself. Shirkey was an outside hitter in high school, and Cummins, formerly Lyndsay Frank, was a middle.

“We’ve made some adjustments, and it’s been working,” Shirkey said.

The rest of the Cardinal rotation consists of juniors Alyssa Shirkey and Kaitlin Bean, the thunder and lightning of the outside hitters; Haley Adams, a sophomore middle hitter whose role is more important due to the Lechene injury; and Maddie Bean, the freshman setter, who is the team’s strongest server.

“It’s a new feeling for all of us,” Kaitlin said. “This is the first year in a long time that we won the CVC. We’re not just underdogs, we’re the top dogs.”

Said Alyssa Shirkey, “It’s so exciting — all the hard work we put into it finally paid off. I’m not saying we played perfect, but we had a perfect season, I guess.”

The Huskies begin tournament play this week, taking on the winner of Garrettsville-Garfield and Hawken on Oct. 17.

Cardinal is the second seed in the Div. III Leavittsburg district at LaBrae High School. The Gilmour Lancers, who have won the district every year in recent memory, are the No. 1 seed.

For more photos of the Huskies win against Newbury, visit bit.ly/leafphotos.

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