PARMA, Ohio – The Rocky River Pirates are conference champions in volleyball for the first time since 1986.
The Pirates plundered Normandy, 3-0, on Tuesday night, and the win guarantees River at least a share of the 2017 Great Lakes Conference title. Rocky River rolled through Tuesday’s clinching sets, 25-12, 25-19, 25-16. [box]
“This is truly a special team with a strong desire to succeed,” said Head Coach Karlee Bruck of her circuit-winning stoppers, setters and swatters. “Tonight’s win is a testament to all the hard work these girls have put into this season, on the court and off.”
On the court, Rocky River (18-4, 11-1 GLC) has now won nine straight matches. And pulling off a three-set sweep on Tuesday was nothing new for the Pirates – River has won nine regulation matches by a score of 3-0.
In Tuesday’s sweep of the Invaders, junior middle hitter Ava Rauser swatted 13 kills while committing just four attack errors. Junior outside hitter Olivia Young added nine kills on the evening.
Rocky River hit .192 as team; that would necessitate a number of long volleys. The Pirate defense was up to the task. River collected 16.3 digs per set on the night. Junior libero Raygan Murray had a big match for the Pirates; she came away with 21 digs and passed the 1,000-dig mark for her career. Young had 11 digs and was solid in service, providing two aces without error.
Senior setter Callie Cmiel also had two aces without an error. Cmiel had 32 assists in 38 ballhandling opportunities.
Tuesday’s match was the clincher in the standings, but it was Rocky River’s Oct. 5 victory at Holy Name that set things in motion for what might possibly end up as a shared title with the Green Wave. Holy Name – the class of the GLC since the league’s inception in 2015 – downed River earlier in the year, and the Pirates needed to even things at the top to have a shot at the league title. They did so last Thursday with a 3-2 victory. And now, Rocky River’s conference slate is completed: the Pirates have gone 11-1 through 12 round-robin circuit matches. Holy Name is 10-1 in GLC play; the Green Wave play their GLC finale at Bay on Thursday.
And either way, Rocky River and Holy Name may well meet again in district play in 15 days. But that’s looking ahead. An appropriate remembrance of the 1986 conference-champion Pirates is looking back.
Tuesday was all about the right-now of the 2017 Rocky River Pirates. About a unit that is perhaps setting things up for more titles in the future. About a group that has stirred echoes of a team that played 31 autumns ago. But primarily about a team from this fall that has fought for and earned a two-word descriptor to trail its moniker as the Rocky River Pirates:
CANNON FIRE …
VOLLEY-BRACKET-OLOGY: On Monday the Ohio High School Athletic Association released the brackets for the state’s district tournaments, which are slated to get underway next week. The Pirates are the No. 3 seed in the “Parma Heights District,” one of four districts in the “Lexington Region.” (Four regions make up the bracket format in the Ohio Division II Tournament.) With the No. 3 seed, Rocky River has a first-round bye; on Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m. the Pirates will play the winner of Bay-Keystone (Oct. 18). … The Parma Heights District includes 12 DII teams. Padua Franciscan earned the district’s No. 1 seed; Holy Name is the district’s No. 2.
’86 REDUX: The 1986 Pirates won the Southwestern Conference en route to going 26-3 in a season ended in the state’s Triple-A final four (River lost to Canton McKinley). The 1986 semi-final finish for Head Coach Gwen Hampel and the Pirates marked a continuation of ‘80s success for the program. The height of Rocky River’s success in that era came in 1983, when the Pirates finished as runners-up in the buckeye state. The SWC-champion 1986 squad was led by a pair of Triple-A All-Ohio performers, Becky Werling and Nancy Winkler.
THE RAYGAN YEARS: Raygan Murray’s 7.0 digs per set at Normandy marked a 2017 season-high. The junior libero has accumulated 48 kills over River’s last two matches. The third-year Pirate has now played 216 sets over her career, and she’s come up with 1,012 digs.
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