The Press Newspaper
There are a lot of moving parts to the Eastwood volleyball team’s offense and defense, but senior libero Aricka LaVoy is the player who makes the Eagles’ engine hum.
LaVoy, a first-team All-Northern Buckeye Conference and All-District 7 selection last season, went into Wednesday night’s Division II district semifinal match against Lima Shawnee with 420 digs on the season.
“If the ball is anywhere in her wheelhouse, she’s going to take it and the other girls know it,” Eastwood coach Jeff Beck said. “We’ve trained her to get to any ball she can, and she’s that fast. Any free ball comes over, if she can get to it, she will.”
LaVoy was instrumental in helping the 12th-ranked Eagles win their fourth straight conference championship this season and advance to the district tournament. She said she knows exactly what her role is night in and night out.
“It all has to start with the pass when the ball comes over the net,” LaVoy said. “You need a good set to put the ball away. If your passes are off, it’s going to be an off match for everyone because that’s what it has to start from. I just have to pass the ball well. I just wanted to keep improving this year, and the statistics show when you’ve improved.”
The Eagles, who went 14-0 in the NBC by winning all 42 sets in conference matches for the second straight year, ran their record to 22-3 with Wednesday’s 25-20, 25-13, 25-20 victory over Lima Shawnee at Liberty-Benton. Eastwood advanced to Saturday’s district championship match against Defiance.
“We looked really good,” Beck said after Wednesday’s win. “We started off really well. We were aggressive and had a lot of energy. We’re usually a slow-starting team.”
The Eagles picked up right where they left off after they secured the NBC title, crushing Scott in the sectional opener and then beating Napoleon 25-18, 25-18, 25-15 for the sectional title. The win over Lima Bath helped erase the memory of losing in last year’s district semifinal.
“Our main focus is getting to the Sweet 16,” LaVoy said. “If we can accomplish that, we’re going to be really, really happy. We’re definitely on a roll after not dropping any (NBC) sets at all. I think we can influence a lot of (Eastwood) girls this year with how much we want to win and not end the season.”
Beck said that although he doesn’t want his team to forget the disappointment of last year’s loss in the postseason, he also wants them to remember who they are and how they got here.
“I told them we play one game and one match at a time,” Beck said. “We are just focused. We have scouting reports on the teams we’re playing and we talk about them. I set up our practices so they’re geared toward the team we are playing. We keep it simple outside of that. We’re 22-3 and we don’t want to change too much if it’s working.
“This is our best chance out of the last three years to get to regionals,” he added. “I know the potential of my team and I don’t think we’re maxed out as a team. We’re playing well enough and where we need to be at this moment, but there’s always room for improvement. We are never satisfied.”
Beck added that the Eagles are a better defensive team than they were a year ago, and their passing skills have greatly improved.
“What’s better offensively is, we have more girls to go to than just Courtney Rolf last year,” he said. “We have three (main offensive) girls this year and we mix it up a lot.”
Junior Elise Wolff has 222 kills and Brooke Salazar and Allison Sutton have 209 and 200 kills, respectively. Salazar was a first-team All-NBC pick as a junior last season.
“They all kind of stepped up,” Beck said. “Jacki Juergens (620 assists), our setter, feels she can go to almost anyone on the court.”
LaVoy said her senior season has been “especially fun.”
“We do a lot of team stuff,” she said. “We’re team bonding all the time. We all really like each other and everyone gets along. It’s more fun because we’re all friends. We definitely felt pressure this year because we definitely saw (other) teams improve. But, when we saw teams improve, that just made us want to beat them even more.”