UTICA — There’s a new volleyball team in the Licking County League and it’s the Utica Redskins. If you think you already know them — think again. The Redskins have been through a trying season and they are just getting everyone back healthy. Now they can start to mow down opponents.
Their latest victim was the visiting Northridge Vikings, who they swept, 26-24, 24-8, 25-16, in Tuesday night LCL action.
“We are just getting our team back,” said Utica coach Laurie Londot. “Taygan (Young) missed three weeks of the season, after getting hurt against Heath. Now, she’s just getting back into the groove and we’re just trying to find our rotations that work. While Taygan was gone, our lineup changed, so she is getting used to that. Tralie (Storts) has been out, virtually all season, until last Thursday. We are just now back into full force. Back in August, we were struggling with things and I said we would be better in October and now, here we are.”
“It’s really sad,” Cunningham said. “It doesn’t feel like it’s been four years. It has gone by really fast. Even though I’m sad to go, I’m excited to continue on to what is next. We still have to finish this season. Coach said we were going to do better in October and we are. I think we’re going to go far.”
The Redskins sputtered in the first set against the Vikings, where the lead changed several times.
“Northridge wasn’t coming in here to play with us,” coach Londot said. “They were coming in here to beat us. They play a lot of people tough. Fundamentally, they’re good. They don’t let the ball hit the floor and you have to respect that. I told our girls, ‘You have to get your heads on straight and get out there and play.’”
The Redskins, down 24-22 in the first set, came back with Utica junior Emily Londot scoring three of her team’s final four points, including the first set winner.
“One key to our game is that we have fun out there,” Londot said. “Once we pick it up and started laughing and smiling on the court, that’s when we are at our best.”
Emily Londot led her team with 25 kills and 16 digs. She even threw in a pair of sets and has been a major force in the backcourt, transforming her game since missing a few Redskins’ games early in the season to play in international competition.
“Playing for USA Volleyball helped me and I’m trying to put some of that on our floor with our team,” Londot said. “I learned so much other stuff. My mind is moving fast out there and it’s hard for my body to keep up.”
With the first set under their belts, the Redskins got an ace from Olivia Rodeniser and Emily Londot added a score to put their team ahead, 7-4. Later, with Kloe Staugh serving, the Redskins went on a 9-0 run, getting scores from Londot and Bella Ellis (14 assists, seven digs). Teammates Cunningham and Mallory Benedict (16 assists, three kills) each had a pair of scores in the run, giving Utica a 17-5 lead on the way to a second set win.
The third set was deadlocked at 8, when Utica went on an 11-2 run, powered by Benedict, who landed a pair of aces. Londot scored three points during that run to put the Redskins comfortably in the lead, 19-10, on their way to a sweep.
Utica’s Jeanna Moore and Staugh combined for five digs in the match.
Utica will be on the road at Newark Catholic Thursday at 7 p.m. and they will go to Buckeye Valley for Saturday’s season finale at 11:30 a.m.