RICHMOND - Watch out for the Wildcats.
The Edison volleyball team opened the season in grand fashion against Jefferson County rival Catholic Central Thursday, defeating the Crusaders 25-23, 25-23, 25-19.
"The girls had intensity," third-year Edison (1-0) head coach Leah Snyder said. "They were excited because it was their first match of the season, and I think their excitement led to some aggressive errors but I would rather have aggressive errors than weak errors."
All three games in the match between defending Ohio Valley Athletic Conference tournament champions (Edison Class 5A, Central Class 2A) started out the same way with the first team to serve jumping out to the early lead. Edison led first game 4-0 before Catholic Central scored a point, the visitors led the second game, 4-0, before the hosts scored a point and the Crusaders led the third game, 5-0, before the Wildcats tallied a point.
"They have a nice team," first-year Catholic Central (2-1) head coach Sherri Barber said. "A lot of their girls play club ball. I think five of them play year round. They are not afraid to get at it."
Catholic Central opened the season by defeating Cambridge Saturday and Beallsville Monday.
"In our first two games, I thought we played terrific as a team," Barber said. "Tonight, we didn't play as well as we are capable of. No doubt it.
"They are a real-quality team."
Katelyn Pollock led the Edison attack with 22 kills, eight points, six digs and one block. Jackie Wiedaman added five kills, 13 points and three digs and Caitlin Brenstuhl tallied 54 assists, two digs and four kills. Maddie Williamson delivered 13 points and seven kills, Cassidy Jarvis recorded 11 kills and four blocks and Kalee Neal ended up with eight digs and four points. Alexis Gill finished with five kills, and Kayleigh Westbrook contributed two digs.
"We worked on some advanced things at practice the last couple of days, and the girls executed them well," Snyder said. "The things we worked on in practice the last couple of days, our setter stepped up and executed the advanced things. Our hitters stepped up and executed the advanced things. I think that gave us the edge."
Robyn Runkel recorded 18 points and eight assists for the Crusaders. Megan Lloyd tallied 11 points and nine assists and Madeline Gulan netted 13 points and six blocks. Monica Rigaud delivered eight blocks and seven kills, Monica Fischer finished with four points and four digs and Logan Colabella collected three kills.
Edison led 22-19 in Game 1, but the Crusaders fought back to tie the score at 23 forcing Snyder to call a timeout. The Wildcats regrouped, and they scored the final two points of the game o take the first game.
"I did not see either of their first-two matches, but a couple of my seniors went and watched them play Cambridge," Snyder said. "Their insight was really good.
"I have a really good group of seniors this year. They are probably in the gym more than I am, and that is saying a lot."
The Wildcats were able to use what the seniors saw from the Crusaders' match against the Bobcats to their advantage Thursday night.
"They were able to pinpoint who their hitters were, and they were able to pinpoint where they like to hit the ball to," Snyder said. "Their setter is really good. Their middle is good. They told us what to focus on."
In Game 2, the Wildcats dug themselves out of their early hole after the Crusaders scored the first-four points of the game on Runkel's serve. Edison responded and ended up taking a 6-5 lead on the serve of Maddie Williamson.
Later in the game, the Wildcats built their advantage to six points at 16-10 on the serve of Jackie Wiedaman resulting in a Catholic Central timeout.
This time, it was the Crusaders who responded. The Crusaders fought back and turned the tide on the Wildcats. Catholic Central ended up tying the score at 20 on Gulan's serve.
Next, the Wildcats countered, and Edison was able to take a 23-21 lead forcing Barber to call a timeout.
Catholic Central came back and closed to within 24-23 forcing Edison to take a timeout, but in the end Pollock delivered a hard-hit spike for a kill to close out the game.
As expected, the Wildcats attempted to get the ball to Pollock as much as possible. And often the strategy worked as Edison's three-sport standout came through for the team in the clutch.
"They do," Barber said about the Wildcats trying to get the ball to Pollock. "They have girls who play club ball. They have girls who play year round, and they all are 6-foot. They are seniors. They hit the ball hard. They are not afraid to hit it."
Game 3 began just like Game 2 as Runkel served her team to the early lead, and just as they did in the second game, the Wildcats fought back.
Edison tied the score at 8 on Pollock's serve. This time, the Crusaders had an answer as they regained control of the game by taking a 16-12 lead, but they were not in control for very long.
The Wildcats came right back, and they took a 17-16 lead on Wiedaman's serve.
The game ended up being deadlocked at 19, but the Wildcats scored the final six points of the the game and the match.
"We are happy with the win," Snyder said. "You always are, but there is always room for improvement."
The match was just recently added to the schedule.
"It was an unscheduled match," Barber said. "We picked it up last week."
Edison needed the match after a couple of holes opened up on its schedule.
"We had two teams drop the last two weeks," Snyder said. "We had to scramble to fill those spots."
Both teams put forth a strong showing in the unexpected match.
"It was a great matchup," Snyder said. "The girls were fired up. It would be hard to find a matchup much better.
"They have a good program. For a small school, they have a good program. They always do. They have two brand-new coaches, and they were able to put things together quickly. In the Creek League, they didn't have a coach when I saw them."
Both teams are scheduled to return to the court on the road. Edison will play Saturday as part of a quad match at Carrollton. Indian Creek and New Philadelphia will also be at the quad, however, the Wildcats will only play the Warriors and not the Redskins or Quakers.
"That is one of the changes," Snyder said. "It was supposed to be us, Carrollton, New Philadelphia and Indian Creek, but New Philadelphia said they didn't know they were supposed to play us and they ended up scheduling other teams and filling up their schedule. We already play Indian Creek twice, so we are not going to play them a third time. So instead of us playing Carrollton, New Philadelphia and Indian Creek, we are just going to play Carrollton."
In an addition to the schedule, Edison will now play a match Aug. 30 at Brooke.
Catholic Central's next match is Wednesday at Bridgeport.