BATAVIA – The St. Charles East girls volleyball team played like a team that knows it’s the time on the season’s calendar to find another gear.
The Saints made quick work of Batavia on Tuesday, defeating the Bulldogs, 25-18, 25-11 in Upstate Eight Conference River play. East’s victory and Geneva’s win against Larkin means the winner of the Saints-Vikings match next Tuesday will become the conference champion.
“The past two weeks we’ve been really buckling down at practice, going a lot longer hours and tougher practices,” East senior defensive specialist Nikki Luczynski said. “I think we’re playing a lot better. Hopefully it pays off even longer down the road.”
After playing several grueling, three-game matches at the Mizuno Cup over the weekend, East (19-8, 5-0 UEC River) enjoyed Tuesday’s change of pace, needing less than 40 minutes to post the road victory.
The Saints dominated in practically all areas, especially defensively and with their passing, to Batavia coach Lori Trippi-Payne’s chagrin.
“St. Charles East outplayed us tonight in the back row,” Trippi-Payne said. “I really thought that was how we could get to them because that’s where they had their struggles that I’ve seen.”
Joining Luczynski and Anne Hughes (eight digs) as a central part of East’s back-row prowess was sophomore Chloe Rojas, who played with a tightly wrapped splint after breaking her left hand while diving for a loose ball. The injury happened about two weeks ago but Rojas only began wearing the splint last weekend.
Rojas, who had five digs on Tuesday, said she didn’t consider “for one second” sitting out the rest of the season once she received medical approval to keep playing.
“It’s been kind of hard to play with it but I’m just kind of trying to pretend it’s not there and just keep playing the way I was before and not let it affect me,” Rojas said.
Memphis recruit Nicole Woods had a banner night for East, racking up team highs in kills (12) and digs (nine). Western Michigan-bound setter Erienne Barry added 23 assists and middle hitter Mikaela Mosquera added five kills.
In addition to dealing with Rojas’ hand injury, the Saints continue to play without senior outside hitter Caitlyn Ballard, who has missed the past few weeks with a foot stress fracture.
East coach Jennie Kull likes the resilience of her team, which started the season on rocky footing.
“We’ve just regrouped again and regrouped again,” Kull said.
Junior Heather Meyer (six kills) and senior Kristen Koncelik (five kills) paced Batavia (14-13, 1-4 UEC River).
Trippi-Payne, who was visibly agitated with her team’s play as Game 2 unfolded, thought her hitters “attacked really well tonight, when we had the opportunity to attack. ... It’s just frustrating because we couldn’t get the ball to them.”
“We get one thing fixed, and then something else doesn’t work,” Trippi-Payne said. “Wow.”