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St. Paul has history on their side in regionals

Mark Hazelwood • Nov 3, 2010 at 9:22 AM

Just a couple steps into the St. Paul Convocation Center and it's visible.

A trophy case with two gold state championship and three silver runners-up trophies for the Lady Flyers greets visitors.

A step inside the gym shows banners of six state appearances during an eight-year span.

"There is a lot of pride in that," St. Paul coach Nancy Miller said. "Tradition speaks volumes when it comes to stuff like that, and this group wants to leave their mark too."

St. Paul graduated six seniors from last season's Division IV state runner-up team, including several three- and four-year starters now starting as freshmen for Division III college programs this season.

That mattered little, however, on Saturday as an expected showdown between the Lady Flyers, No. 8 in the OHSVCA poll, and No. 6 Buckeye Central became a three-set sweep in favor of St. Paul, 25-23, 25-20, 26-24.

Up next is a regional semifinal matchup with Wellsville (19-7) at 6 p.m. today at Solon High School.

The win over Buckeye Central came on the heels of a four-set victory over No. 18 Colonel Crawford in a district semifinal on Oct. 26.

"A lot of it was our approach we took to practice last week," Miller said. "The girls worked very hard at practice. My coaches and I had scouted Buckeye Central and Colonel Crawford and felt that we were prepared for each team, individually.

"We spent a lot of time on their serving style and a lot of time on where their hitters liked to go. The kids executed the game plan great. As far as court composure, because of the way we practiced, we felt very comfortable. The girls never got flustered and felt they were in control the whole time."

Sophomore middle hitter Olivia Livengood came up big with 18 kills on 30-of-34 hitting in the sweep of Buckeye Central. But when Crawford zeroed in on Livengood earlier in the week, support from Erin Kramer and Jessica Draime filled the gaps.

"As far as the offense, that's the beauty of it," Miller said. "We have Olivia, Jessica, Erin and Haley (Ott). Any one of those hitters on a given night can step up. That is a big positive."

Defensively, junior libero Corynne Smith supported arguments that she could be the best back row defender in Division IV with 33 digs against Buckeye Central.

"She is the heart of our defense and inspires the younger kids," Miller said of Smith. "And we've got freshman Elise Nickoli coming on back there and Olivia has taken on a huge defensive role.

"And Hillary (Fritz) does a great job as well, and what it comes down to is, our passing is probably the heart of this team."

As for Wellsville, Miller sees a team that has scrapped its way to wins despite having just one senior on the roster.

"They have a strong setter that is the quarterback of their team in (junior) Noelle Amato," she said. "Their one senior is at outside hitter and they are just a scrappy team that isn't someone you can look past. The kids will have to bring a good game, but we knew that. It's the regionals."

It is indeed regional time for the Lady Flyers, who own a sparkling 12-1 record in the program's seven regional appearances.

If St. Paul keeps up its regional dominance, they will face the winner of Dalton and Kirtland awaits at 2 p.m. Saturday in the regional final.

"We have to take care of ourselves and the little things," Miller said. "The way we practiced and played against Buckeye Central, we have to bring that to the floor (tonight).

" When I watched the film from Saturday, there are some things to clean up yet with a few hitting errors and some passing things here and there. There are little things yet we can fine tune, and these girls have better ball in them yet."

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