Chapelgate Christian Academy volleyball lived and died by the serve Monday night against Glenelg Country School.
The Yellowjackets had 20 service errors and at least four in each set to keep the Dragons in the match, but they also tallied 34 total aces in a 25-15, 25-15, 22-25, 25-16 home win over their Howard County private school rival to improve to 7-6 overall.
“We’re a pretty aggressive serving team. We try to keep our trajectory down pretty low and we’re going for it most of the time, so that is a strength of ours,” said Chapelgate coach Jess Weakley. “But much like home run hitters, we tend to make a lot of errors in that area, too, which has been the battle for us finding that balance between going for it, but don’t miss. Serve tough, but serve in, too. So that’s a challenge.”
Dani D’Ascenzo led the Yellowjackets (7-6, 5-2 IAAM B) with 13 aces and had at least two in every set, and Payton Brown added nine. Rachel del Carmen led the offensive attack with 10 kills and pitched in with three aces, while Katie Rolewicz had four of her team’s 23 kills.
“I think at the beginning of the season we were struggling with some of our serves, but we’ve drilled it a lot in practice and worked on serve receive and targeting our opponents weakest player, and I think we’ve done a good job with that,” del Carmen said. “As long as we’re serving aggressive errors are bound to happen, so I think that’s OK, but at the same time it is something you can control. So I think we still need to work on getting the serves in.”
The aggressiveness was evident right out of the gate, as D’Ascenzo had aces on four straight points to give her team a 6-0 lead. Each of the first four servers to toe the line for Chapelgate had at least one ace, and del Carmen’s first extended the cushion to 13-4. Fittingly, Brown ended the opening set with an ace.
Glenelg Country (6-5, 3-3 IAAM C) continued to struggle with its serve receives throughout the second set, as the Yellowjackets added 12 more aces in the stanza to give them 23 through half the match, but it managed to keep the score close most of the way. In fact, the Dragons trailed by three points or less until Brown stepped behind the line for Chapelgate. Up 16-15, she served six consecutive aces and the Yellowjackets ended the set on a 9-0 run.
“Passing is our big Achilles heel. We got to 16-15 and they won the last nine points on serves,” said Glenelg Country coach Dennis Seibel. “We’ve been working on that all year, trying to improve our passing on serve receive, and it’s still hurting us. They’re very good servers.”
Weakley unloaded the bench in the third set and sat all of her seniors, saying it was to allow “next year’s team” to get some work together, but it would turn out to cost the Yellowjackets a sweep. The Dragons overcame an early 4-0 deficit but battled back to win eight of the next nine points and take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Aysa Loeb had two of her eight aces for Glenelg Country in the set, but it was a kill from Sophia Jalali (three kills, one ace) on the final point that extended the match another set.
The regulars returned for the Chapelgate in the fourth set, and they looked fresh as they combined for six more aces and 10 kills. D’Ascenzo once again jumpstarted the attack with three aces and a kill to make it 5-0, and del Carmen added three kills in a 6-0 run to push the advantage to 11-3. Rolewicz and Alexis Beauregard ended the match with kills.
Both the Yellowjacks and Glenelg Country have two more conference matches before the playoffs. Weakley said she feels confident about her team heading into the final stretch of the season.
“We’re competitive with everyone. Pallotti, who is above us, we took them to five [sets]. Against Maryvale last week we went to four, but two of the games were decided by two points,” she said. “So we’re really competitive with those teams above us, so I feel confident that we will be in good shape to do well going into the playoffs.”
Seibel said he hopes his team can win the final two games at home, which would likely give them a home playoff match. But he added that he hopes his team can learn from the struggles and improve with serve receives before postseason play.
“We’ve had our moments when we can serve well and we get the passes to our hitters,” he said. “We’ve got some hitters but today we didn’t utilize them as much as we could because we weren’t getting our passes to the setters.”
Chapelgate (7-6, 5-2 IAAM B) def. Glenelg Country (6-5, 3-3 IAAM C) – 3-1 [25-15, 25-15, 22-25, 25-16]