The Roughriders came out aggressive from the first ball and rolled over the Division IV No. 7-ranked Lady Flyers, 25-18, 25-23, 25-18 at Western Reserve High School.
"All these girls have been practicing so hard in the offseason," Western Reserve coach Lisa Muenz said. "We have devoted so much time and I think this win is a testament to their work ethic."
St. Paul coach Nancy Miller thought the fact her team was playing its eighth match in two weeks and third in as many nights was a factor.
"I think a lot of it is we have had a long two weeks," Miller said. "It caught up to us. We have played eight matches in the last two weeks. We had a late night getting home from Findlay (Wednesday) night. It is a lot, but we knew that going into it."
The Roughriders (14-6 overall, 8-4 FC) led Game 1 from start to finish. A kill by Emma Weber, coupled with an error from St. Paul (15-4, 10-2) pushed Western Reserve ahead, 7-3, but the 'Riders were just getting started. St. Paul was within 11-9 later, but three kills from Avery Tubbs helped extend the lead to 15-9.
Kamryn Maxwell put down a kill for the Lady Flyers, but Western Reserve responded with a run of six out of seven points to push its lead to 21-11 — forcing Miller into a timeout. St. Paul got back within six points, but an error by St. Paul gave the 'Riders the early lead.
"We are little. We are not big," Muenz said. "We knew that coming into this year. Our defense, our aggressiveness, and our energy on the court is what our strength is. We have had a hard time holding onto those strengths on the court. We are a very emotional group."
Game 2 saw great back-and-forth action between the two. St. Paul led, 5-3, after a net violation by Western Reserve, but the 'Riders responded and went on a 6-1 run for a 9-6 lead. Not to be outdone, St. Paul bounced back and used balanced hitting to springboard to a 17-14 lead after kills from Megan Hammersmith and Maxwell.
Western Reserve again put a run together — this time 7-1 — for a 21-19 lead. The Flyers responded and tied the game at 21, 22, and 23 before Tubbs smacked a kill and Jessa Riley served an ace, giving Western Reserve the commanding lead.
"We did not attack the ball," Miller said. "We had about 20 kills as a team the whole evening and that is so not like us. I felt that we were not aggressive tonight. We were very out of sync."
The 'Riders wasted little time getting going in Game 3, racing out to a 7-3 lead. A service error by Western Reserve halted the momentum, but only briefly. Weber and White each smacked a kill and two errors by the Flyers increased the lead to 11-4. St. Paul valiantly fought back and were within 13-11, but never drew any closer.
A rotation error and two kills by Alyssa Burch pushed the Western Reserve lead back to five points. Later, Burch served an ace and a kill and block from White extended the margin to 21-14. A kill from Burch gave Western Reserve the game and impressive victory over St. Paul for the first time since 2005.
"We have probably studied video on other teams this year more than we ever have," Muenz said. "We really worked on pulling St. Paul out of system and attacking the ball to their setter so they could not run their offense. I think tonight was the first night all of my hitters were consistent at doing that. We picked apart some of their holes when they were in their coverage."
St. Paul defeated Western Reserve at home on Sept. 11, 18-25. 25-20, 25-17, 25-20.
"I expected to step on the court and come out a little stronger," Miller said. "I thought we were on our heels and you could see that in the first three points of the match."
White led the 'Riders with 21 digs and 15 kills while Tubbs had 13 kills. Hannah Burke registered 37 assists, Riley had 16 digs, Morgan Spettle contributed to 12 digs, and Kristine Royster tallied 11 digs.
Kamryn Maxwell had 10 kills and 25 digs for St. Paul. Megan Hammersmith had nine kills and 15 digs, and also added 10 assists. Kennedy Stang had 20 digs.
"It is the little things for us right now," Miller said. "It is the small discipline things that we have been trying to get them to see all year. I do not think we have been pushed enough to see the importance of trying to get better in a few areas."
With St. Paul’s loss, both Monroeville (17-2, 10-2) and Crestview (15-4, 10-2) are also tied for first — though those two teams play Tuesday in Olivesburg. The Lady Flyers close with Mapleton at home on Tuesday, followed by a trip to South Central on Thursday.