UTICA — The Utica Redskins put the pedal to the metal out of the gates Monday against Central Crossing, building double-digit leads in the first and second sets before rallying in the third set for a sweep over the Comets.
“One key thing for us is we go out there and have fun,” Utica junior Emily Londot said of the team’s success. “We all love playing with each other so having fun really gets us going and good plays just happen.”
The first set started out disjointed, with the first six points decided by errors, either at the net or at the service line, tying the score at 3-3. The Redskins broke the tie and began pulling away, with an ace by Jeanne Moore putting the home team up 8-4. Utica continued its solid play, with a kill from Autumn Drumm putting the Comets in a 17-9 hole, forcing the first timeout of the set.
“I was happy with how we came out and jumped on them early in the first set, especially with it being on a Monday,” Utica coach Laurie Londot said. “They’re a Division I school and we knew they had a couple good players, but they just really jumped on it and didn’t give them a chance to get into the match until the third set.”
Utica came out strong in the second set, taking a 5-1 lead in the blink of an eye, led by three points from Londot and two aces from Cunningham. Utica got to a double-digit lead off an ace from Mallory Benedict (16-6). Londot forced a Central Crossing timeout with a kill to nudge the home lead to 20-8. The biggest Redskin lead came at 22-9 after a kill error by the Comets. The visitors continued to battle, but two errors by them to close out the set gave Utica the 25-14 win.
“I think our team played really well together, as a team,” Emily Londot said. “We did really well at trusting each other … and we did good on covering our hitters because we knew they had a big block so we worked on that.”
Set 3 appeared to be more of the same, with an Ellis block pushing the early Utica lead to 4-1, but the Comets continued to fight. The Redskins held a 10-5 lead, but Central Crossing rallied to knot the game at 11, and went on to take a 14-13 lead, forcing a Laurie Londot timeout. Following the break, the Comets scored another two points, before an Olivia Rodeniser kill snapped the Redskins out of their slump.
“We could have put the match away I think, had we not let them back in,” Laurie Londot said. “We let them in and opened the door for them and they took advantage of it. In that timeout I said, ‘We’ve got to pick it up, because if we let them take this set they’re going to run with it with the confidence. It was a matter of we talked about attacking instead of reacting.”
A big block from Londot and Benedict tied the game at 16 and after another tie, Utica started to pull away, building a five-point lead and eventually taking the set, 25-20, capped by a kill from Kloe Staugh.
Londot paced Utica with 16 kills, three blocks and two aces on the night. Ellis and Staugh were next on the team in the kills department, with only two apiece. Ellis did notch three aces and eight assists, while Staugh kicked in eight digs. Benedict notched three aces, a kill, two blocks and 11 assists. Cunningham led the Redskins with four aces, while Moore turned another two. Drumm and Rodeniser each had a kill in the win.
As a team, Utica amassed 13 aces, but that was paired with 10 serve errors.
“Our serving was kind of a mess,” Laurie Londot said. “We don’t have a lot of offensive weapons so serving is something that we want to have as a weapon. You have to serve aggressive, but with that comes more errors so you’ve got to find the right rhythm.”
With inconsistencies in the lineup due to injuries and Emily Londot competing in Honduras, the Redskins will look to find a new normal in a road conference game Tuesday against Northridge, with JV action kicking off at 5:30 p.m.
“It’s just us trying to find a rhythm. Every game is important,” Laurie Londot said. “We want to try to get as good of a seed going into the tournament as we can.”