By Lisa Byers
LINESVILLE — Conneaut had some pretty high expectations going into the 2012 girls volleyball season.
The Eagles have known all along, though, that reaching those goals isn’t going to come without a few bumps in the road along the way. It’s all a matter of how they respond.
Tuesday night’s home and Region 4 opener against Corry proved to be a pretty good test.
Conneaut struggled against a talented Corry squad Tuesday. But the Eagles were able to pull it together in the end to come away with a 25-23, 25-13, 19-25, 27-25 win.
“We got the win,” Conneaut coach Tim Schleicher said. “That’s all that counts right now. We need to focus now on what we need to do to get better and there is plenty to do in two hours of practice (today).
“Some of (the players) have already written down drills they want to go over. And that’s good. It’s good that they are focused and wanting to get better.”
Tuesday’s match wasn’t only a lesson for the Eagles. A brand new team, Conneaut will be a challenge for its opponents through the first half of the season as it continues to become familiar.
What Corry learned was that senior middle hitter Darian Bodnar has become a dynamic player and will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
The Beavers also learned that with a match on the line, the Eagles are going to go to junior outside hitter Challen Litwiler. And the 2011 Meadville Tribune Co-Player of the Year is going to do what she does best: Deliver.
Corry took a 23-22 lead in the fourth set after a pair of Conneaut players allowed a ball to drop between them untouched. Conneaut tied it up at 23 on a kill by Litwiler, but the Beavers responded with a block by Brook Goodsel to pull to within one point (24-23) of sending the match to a decisive fifth set.
Litwiler prevented that from happening. She tied it up twice and then gave the Eagles a 26-25 lead. Corry followed with an attack error to give Conneaut a 27-25 win and the match.
“She took some big swings,” Schleicher said. “To her credit. She wanted that opportunity to take those swings and she came through. I’m not taking anything away from anyone else. Everyone played fantastic. But she stepped up. That was a positive thing to see: a junior outside hitter wanting to step up and end a match.”
It’s something Litwiler is challenging herself to do.
“My sister (Amber) graduated last year, which was a huge loss,” Litwiler said. “I told myself the whole summer that I have to be the player that steps up. I’m still committing to that because I’m not there yet. I still have work to do.”
Litwiler finished with a match-high 18 kills. Kristen Baker added 10 kills. And Bodnar came out and delivered with nine kills, three blocks and three service aces.
“She’s a complete player,” Schleicher said. “She isn’t going to lay back anymore. She’s an athlete. She understands the game better. I’m really pleased with her.”
The Eagles left several points on the floor, mainly at the service line where they committed 19 errors. But Corry certainly earned its points too.
Goodsel had an incredible performance, finishing with 12 kills, 11 digs and seven blocks. Janele Greer added 12 kills and nine digs.
“They’re a very good team,” Corry coach Kelly Goodsel said of Conneaut. “We’re a good team trying to prove we’re a good team. We have some things to work on. (Conneaut) hit the crap out of the ball and that’s something we have to get used to, because we don’t play a whole lot of people who do that. We’ll beat the ball at them in gym and we’ll get better.”
By Lisa Byers
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