Park Ridge turns the tables on Cresskill

CRESSKILL - Park Ridge’s volleyball team avenged an early season, three-set loss to Cresskill with a spirited effort to earn a 2-0 (29-27, 25-18) straight set victory Thursday afternoon.

“We’ve been working toward this game in particular for weeks,” said junior Isabella Yarenis, Park Ridge’s libero. “We took a set off of them the first time we played and then kind of fell off the next two sets. We’ve been working so much on taking each hitter and breaking down their play, their most recent hits and working towards getting every ball off each player on the court. We particularly went for the middles because they are their best hitters. We broke down each of their tactics, their specialties and we found that using their hits, body language and angling was the best way to [execute] our defense.”

As a result the Cougars never led by more than three points for the entire match. They trailed by six, 15-9, in the first set before they rallied to take their first lead in the first set, 18-17.

“In past years that’s what really got us,”Yarenis said of opponents' scoring runs. “We’ve had a lead and we would get down in services. We made the goal, even before the game, to break it (a run) off at three points. We wouldn’t let them get serving around and continue to ace us when we knew exactly what we had to fix.”

Cougars senior middle hitter Erin Fahy tallied five consecutive service winners, including an ace, to give Cresskill a one-point lead. But Park Ridge did not panic. They just continued to play its game.

“I was aware of the score,” said junior middle blocker Mia Izzo, “but being next to my teammates and being comfortable around them I felt happy, I felt relaxed. Even though we were down I just knew by looking in their faces there was no panic. We knew what we were going to do, we knew what we came into the gym to do, and we did it. It was great. It was amazing.”

“Everyone just kept their composure,” added senior middle blocker Sydney Majdosz. “They knew what they had to do. All we had to do was push a couple of points. It was simple. We had to keep it simple, go to nice places and not make it too complex of a game. We knew if we did that we would have a better chance of winning the game.”

The teams traded points and were tied at 18, 19, 20 and 21.

Cougars senior Joslyn Lewin earned three service winners, including an ace to give Cresskill a set point, 24-21. But Owls senior outside hitter Kayla Hunt hammered a kill to get a point and a side-out for Park Ridge. Izzo blasted a kill and Majdosz served an ace to tie the score 24-all. A net violation gave the lead back to Cresskill but an errant serve tied the set, 25-25. An attack error gave Park Ridge the lead but Cougars senior outside hitter Tiko Tvauri smacked a kill to tie the game again.

“We’ve learned how to stay composed through tough moments,” said Park Ridge coach Bill Allen. “When teams go on a run against us we do a better job of supporting each other and staying positive. Volleyball is a super emotional game and we’ve been in spots where we’ve let big leads get away. If someone goes on a run we get down on ourselves. I think we have matured emotionally in terms of staying in the present and being there for each other and calming it down when we feel it gets a little out of control.”

Izzo blocked a shot but the Owls hit a serve into the net as the score moved to 27-27. Cresskill hit a serve out of bounds and the set ended when Park Ridge junior opposite hitter Taylor Roth stuck the ball into an open spot on the Cresskill side of the net to give the Owls a 29-27 win.

“We definitely have picked up on that (hitting spots) a lot more in practice recently,” said Hunt. “We realize our knowledge of the game will really help us so our spots have been a huge thing to pick up on and really work on where we place the ball.”

The second set was close early on. Majdosz tied the score 8-8 with a kill and Yarenis gave Park Ridge the lead for good with a pair of service aces.

“It feels amazing,” said Hunt. “I was sitting on the bench about to cry at one point. It felt so surreal - coming in and being able to take this. It’s something we haven’t been able to do for a couple of years.”

The Owls have two young setters, sophomore Ella McDermott and freshman Katelyn Levinson, who each distributed 9 assists. McDermott also contributed 6 service winners and 3 digs. Levinson, who also had 3 kills and a service ace, got one of her kills on a “quick hit” to give the Owls a 22-16 lead.

“Katelyn Levinson is one of the most humble, kind people that you will ever meet,” said Allen. “She impressed us so much. She played all around today. She has a unique mindset and confidence in herself. She really thinks about her own personal success, last. The most important thing to her is that her teammates are successful and that the team is doing well. She’s a very impressive freshman.”

Park Ridge closed out the match with an 8-4 run to improve its season record to 11-4. Cresskill fell to 11-3 on the season, suffering its first league loss in the process.

“It feels good, especially since the last time we played them we kind of crumpled in the second set,” said Hunt. “This time around we came in and we wanted it a lot more.”

“We just work so well together as a group,” said Izzo. “I feel like from the beginning of the season to now we’ve just grown so much. I feel like we comfort each other and we’re able to get those points together as a group.”

Izzo led all scorers with 10 kills and a block. She also scooped 3 digs and had 4 service winners, including 2 aces.

“Mia is such a great communicator and a positive force on the court,” said Allen. “She’s so strong, even as a passer. She’s played a lot more in the back row this year. We trust her entirely with her game. We’ve all brought up our game to the kind of level she brings. Today it was a team effort. We like to say 15 is 1. We’re 15 girls and we all like to bring that energy together. Mia is a great player and an engine for us.”

Majdosz added 3 kills and a block, 8 service winners, including 4 aces and 10 digs. 

“We’ve been working so hard for it,” said Majdosz. “We’ve put so much work in practice and I think we just executed it today. Everyone kept their composure, there was good energy and I think it led us to our win. They are a rival and they beat us last game. We wanted it so bad and I feel like that’s what fueled everybody. It was a really good win - it felt really good. It was just a really good game.”

“Leading up to this game,” Izzo said, “after we lost to Cresskill the first time, individually we set our own personal goals that we worked on at practice. Today we executed those goals. We knew what we wanted to do going into this match and we did it. We executed and individually every player did what they didn’t do in the first match and it was amazing to see. It was great.”