Eagles trying to stay on top of conference’s perch

Mark Griffin

Tuesday was one of “those” nights for Eastwood’s volleyball team.
Tied two sets apiece heading into the final frame, the Eagles had a chance to chalk up a home win over a talented Lake squad. The Flyers, however, were the ones taking care of business in the fifth set, just like Defiance and Otsego did to the Eagles in their previous matches.
All three of Eastwood’s losses this season have come in five sets; the Eagles were 6-3 and 3-2 in the Northern Buckeye Conference heading into Thursday’s home match against Rossford. Eastwood’s six wins – over Whitmer, Bowling Green, Delta, Woodmore, Fostoria and Genoa – were three-game sweeps.
“When we lose, we don’t talk about it that night,” Eastwood coach Jeff Beck said. “We’ll talk about it the next day, for about 15-20 minutes. It’s all about developing that key player right now. We don’t have a go-to player or a verbal leader. We’re very young, and there’s a very good chance we could be 9-0. All three losses are by five sets where, in the last set, we had no leadership. There was no ‘get on my back and I will win this for you’ from anyone.
“That’s why we’ve been losing the five-setters. If that changes, we’re going to put ourselves in better position to win those five-setters.”
Carlee Lepiarz, a 5-foot-7 senior setter, is the only returning starter from last year’s team, which finished fourth in the NBC. The rest of the squad includes senior outside hitter Alyssa Hoodlebrink, two juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen.
“We have expectations,” Beck said. “We are technically sound and trained well, and we have good form. Right now it’s kind of a mental battle for us. We have super-nice girls, but it’s all about leadership. You can’t force it on them, they have to want it themselves. They need to call players out and they need to be able to lead.”
Lepiarz, a three-year starter, has 42 kills while Hoodlebrink, a 5-7 outside hitter, has 56 kills. Hoodlebrink did not start last season, but she was one of the Eagles’ top substitutes.
“Carlee right now is doing what she’s supposed to be doing,” Beck said, “but I really want her to want to be the leader. I want her to step up and say, ‘I’m a senior and we’re going to do everything we can to win.’ She’s doing well setting the ball and mixing it up. She’s fighting hard and is one of our top servers. Alyssa is working hard at getting better, and she’s extremely coachable. She’s doing her best to find ways to score for us.”
Brenna Moenter, a 6-foot sophomore outside hitter, leads the team with 95 kills.
“She is improving and she’s making efforts to get better by doing things we want her to do,” Beck said. “She is doing a nice job and she’s slowly understanding that when she’s in the front row, she’s going to see a majority of the shots.”
Junior Sheriden Schuerman is the starter at libero, taking over for Bailey Ramlow, a two-time first-team All-NBC performer who is now a freshman playing at Youngstown State.
“Sher is one of our players who understands going for it,” Beck said. “This summer helped her a lot, and she’s had a lot of really nice matches of late.”
Junior middle hitter Mia Stephenson is second on the team in kills, with 57.
“Mia is doing a wonderful job coming up from the jayvee to varsity level,” Beck said. “She is literally one of our hardest workers and is a true joy to coach.”
Eastwood’s other top players are 5-10 freshman middle hitter Morgan McMillin, who has 45 kills, and sophomore setter/right side hitter Anna Ramlow, who has 35 kills. Ramlow played a lot last season.
“Anna is one of our top all-around athletes,” Beck said. “I can really almost put her anywhere. Morgan has developed into a varsity middle hitter. She struggled some in the summer, but after a couple tough matches she literally kind of got how to play volleyball. She works hard and she’s like a sponge. She likes to learn, and her future is so bright.”
The Eagles have an uphill climb from here if they hope to contend for a conference championship. They trail both Otsego and Lake in the NBC standings, but they have rematches against both teams on Sept. 19 and Oct. 3, respectively.
“One match at a time,” Beck said. “We don’t even talk about a league title. It’s always our goal, but from here on out we have to have this team lose and that team win ... Now we just have to worry about one match at a time. We know our future is bright. For a lot of these players it’s their first time at the varsity level. Once that leadership develops, these close losses are going to be victories.”


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