MAYVILLE - Chautauqua Lake took one more concrete step towards an increasingly inevitable Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 3 title on Tuesday evening.
Led by Jill Einink's controlling play in the middle, a team-wide defensive effort at the net and some solid decision-making along the way, the Lady Thunderbirds defeated the visiting Panama Lady Panthers (6-3, 4-3) in straight sets, 25-17, 25-20 and 25-14.
The victory was the eighth in as many tries for undefeated Chautauqua Lake, and improved its league record to a perfect 7-0. Now, with just three more league games remaining this season - against Pine Valley (3-4, 4-6) on Thursday, Maple Grove (3-5, 3-7) next Tuesday and Westfield (1-9, 0-7) on Oct. 16 - the Lady Thunderbirds need to win just one of those to guarantee themselves at least a share of the division crown for the second straight season. Two victories and they will own the title outright.
Above, Chautauqua Lake’s Ashton Albanesius, left, and Hannah Rauh, right, prepare to block a spike by Panama’s Crystal Swanson during Tuesday’s Division 3 volleyball match. Below, the Lady Thunderbirds’ Jill Einink eyes the ball during a serve. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Kindberg
Einink racked up a game-high 13 kills to go along with three blocks and six digs, and nowhere was her play more important than midway through that always crucial first set.
After senior Sydney Milliman (seven kills, one ace and one block) tallied five straight points from the service line to increase what had been a slim lead to a slightly more comfortable 13-7 margin, Panama nevertheless rallied once again, scoring six of the next nine points.
But Einink answered.
She delivered a dink and three straight kills - one of which that seemed destined to sail wide but somehow, and much to the Panama players' chagrin, managed to catch the back corner - to up the cushion to nine, 22-13.
Throughout the first game Einink and teammates Ashton Albanesius, Hannah Rauh (11 kills, seven digs and three aces) and Tara Hunt (three kills, eight digs and 15 assists), to name a few, managed to wisely mix in hard spikes with softer tips and pushes.
"(Jenna) does such a great job of controlling the tempo of the game for us and I was really happy with our control at the net as well," Chautauqua Lake coach Joanne Meadows said. "I think they did a nice job of picking spots on the floor and mixing hits with tips. I was very happy with the choices they made."
Panama, however, wouldn't go down easily.
The Lady Panthers, despite trailing early, 6-3, battled back and forth with the hosts to knot the game at 18 apiece. But with Katie Meadows' quick ace, a trio of kills by Rauh and a quick return by Hunt, the Lady Thunderbirds scored seven of the next nine points to capture the game two win.
"The thing that I can say about this team that sometimes isn't always the case with other teams that I've had is that no matter what the score is they just keep focusing on the next ball," Meadows said of her squad's ability to withstand the Panama comeback attempt. "They never let a couple of points matter and even if they go down one or two points they don't get panicky. That gives me a lot of confidence in them."
Despite the outcome for Panama, which was defeated soundly by scores of 25-9, 25-19 and 25-13 when these two squads first squared off in early September, coach Deb Palmer was glad to see her team keep battling throughout the match.
"I'm very pleased with their effort," she said. "I thought we played them a lot tougher than the first time. (Chautauqua Lake) is definitely the class of our league, so coming here I thought we really did hold our own.
"I told the kids at the beginning of the year that the thing we wanted was improvement every match, and I'm seeing that. (Chautauqua Lake) is just a little bit stronger than we are at this point."
Brittany Lenart recorded eight kills, five digs and three points, Carly Abbate 14 assists and four digs, Cora Monroy six kills and seven points and Kalli Davenport five digs in defeat.