By Michael Leonard | Record Publishing
Southeast's Mary Tarka and Streetsboro's Bill Smerglia have been matching wits for years on the volleyball court.
However, the matchup between the Pirates and Rockets on Thursday at Southeast was the first time the two have met in a divisional matchup since the days of the Portage County League.
Fittingly enough, the two veteran coaches saw their teams engage in a five-set thriller.
Southeast rallied from being a set down twice to score a 21-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-18, 15-12 win over the Rockets. Southeast improved to 2-1, 2-0 in the County Division, while Streetsboro dropped to 0-2, 0-2 in the division.
Tarka said the key to the contest was her team played cleaner ball in the fifth set.
"Volleyball is a game of who is going to make fewer mistakes," Tarka said. "In the fifth set, we made fewer mistakes. Earlier in the match, it was a toss up."
"It was going to come down to whoever made the last few (plays)," Smerglia said. "We're still young and trying to get everyone in position.
"It's going to be an interesting year for everybody," Smerglia added. "I don't think anyone in the County Division is standing out. It's not a good start for us, though."
Set one between the two teams was nip-and-tuck the whole way. The set was tied at 12 different points, all the way up to 20-20.
Streetsboro finally got a little separation with the help of setter Alycia Scalia. Scalia hit an ace to set up set point and outside hitter Taylor Hillyer notched a kill to win with set.
Starting a lineup that included three freshmen and two sophomores, set two saw Southeast take command early.
Freshman Savannah Woodard earned the first five service points.
Streetsboro never overcame the deficit, as the Rockets committed numerous passing and hitting errors.
Streetsboro trailed by as many as 18-9 before staging a bit of a rally to cut it 20-16.
However, Southeast's serving ability kept the margin in their favor. The Pirates claimed the second set after Streetsboro was called for a center line violation.
In set three, it was close again early until Streetsboro started getting kills from a variety of players. The Rockets claimed the set when a bump deep into Southeast's court was not returned.
In set four, it was Southeast's turn to get its offense from different players as Brittany Butcher and Danielle Norquest led the charge. Norquest killed the ball on set point to send it to five.
In the fifth set, Streetsboro's Paige Saunders attempted to put her team on her back, as she finished with four kills and two block points in the final set alone.
However, Streetsboro's passing caused them to drop points, as Tarka told her team to serve away from the middle to isolate Saunders.
It worked, as Southeast took the lead at 7-6 and never gave it back.
Back-to-back kills from Butcher set up Southeast for match point. Riley Norquest then hit a kill off the block to give the Pirates the win.
"I know my team is young, but they've got a lot of potential," Tarka said. "They just need game experience."