For 3rd year in row, Mercy rules tourney Magic rallies for sweep of regular-season champion Spalding

November 02, 1998|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The record will show that No. 15 Mercy captured its third DTC straight Catholic League volleyball tournament championship last night with a 16-14, 15-13, 15-7 sweep of No. 13 Archbishop Spalding at the College of Notre Dame. But even though this was a sweep, few matches could be closer.

This was the third straight year that Mercy (17-4) beat Spalding (15-4) in the tournament championship. Mt. Carmel beat Seton Keough in four games in the consolation, but for Spalding, the regular-season champion, the final loss was especially hard because the match could easily have gone the other way.

The Cavaliers took a 5-0 lead in the opening game, but the Magic rallied for the 16-14 victory. Spalding had a 6-1 lead in the third game, but Mercy again roared back, riding a 10-point run on the serving of Tara Singleton to close out the match.

"We just came out fired up and stayed that way," said Mercy coach Louie Sowers. "We just kept coming all night."

Mercy played well all over the court, but the Magic was especially strong at the net. Ashlee Courter led with 11 kills. Kelli McKee added eight, Singleton six and Heather Valunas four. McKee also had five blocks, and Valunas added two, including a clutch block during that final 10-point run.

But Michelle Russell, the league's Player of the Year, again sparked the offense. She finished with 30 assists and continually made the offense run while keeping the intensity level up.

"We were just pumped for this," said Russell. "We were ready to go, and we wanted it."

Mercy rallied from the five-point deficit in the opener to pull even, but again fell behind 12-9. It took a 14-12 lead before Melissa Mahoney's kill and Lauren Schaech's ace tied it for Spalding. But McKee and Courter followed with two big shots to give the Magic the win.

Game 2 also proved frustrating for Spalding, which rallied from a 7-1 deficit to take a 12-11 lead, thanks partly to a six-point run behind Schaech's serves. But Mercy scored four of the last five points, capped by a Valunas hit at the net for the 15-13 victory.

Jennifer Datz served well, and Mahoney made some big kills to help the Cavaliers take a 6-1 lead in Game 3. But the Magic had one final answer, again using a variety of shots in a number of places.

Mercy had cut the lead to 7-5 when Singleton served out the match. The first five points came on Cavaliers errors forced by good Mercy shots, and the Magic finished it out from there.

"We played a timid game," said Spalding coach Linda Taylor, the Catholic League's Coach of the Year. "We just didn't put it together at all. We're much better than that."

Pub Date: 11/02/98

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