OTTAWA — Any time a rivalry contest rolls around on the schedule, coaches will tell you the biggest key to coming out on top is calming their team down instead of shouting out a "pump-'em-up" pregame speech.
Marquette Academy coach Mindy McConnaughhay felt her team may have been a little too "ready to go" when it took the floor against the visiting Seneca Lady Irish during Thursday night's Tri-County Conference match here at Bader Gymnasium.
The hosts did eventually sort out their emotions and used a huge service run by Emma Thomas to all but close out the first set, then ran off the opening seven points of the second to eventually roll to a 25-10, 25-15 victory over their rivals from the east.
Marquette (11-2, 3-0 T-CC) — which never trailed in the match — was paced by eight kills from Aubrey McCallum, seven winners from Ellie Eager and six winning swings by Grace Jeanblanc. Thomas finished with 13 service points, 19 assists and a trio of aces, while Addie McConnaughhay recorded 10 digs, 10 points and four aces for the Lady Cru. Seneca (13-3, 2-1 T-CC) — which scored just eight points on its serve in the match — was led by four kills by Maddie Bromberek and two apiece by Addie Bland and Justine Ursua.
"I think sometimes we get a little too jazzed up, especially tonight in a rivalry match like this one. In the middle of that first set we finally relaxed ... just took off and got into a groove," said Coach McConnaughhay.
"Our big thing is running a fast offense and speeding everything up — that was a key to us putting together some nice runs. Seneca has a really good middle blocker in Bromberek, and this is one of the few teams that we have played that has had a solid middle to deal with. We needed to play fast to hopefully negate her blocking, and I feel we did that better and better as the match went on."
Seneca trailed 6-5 in the opening set before a pair of kills and block from McCallum, plus an ace by Paige Cottingim started the Lady Crusaders going. Later, a kill by Brooklyn Giertz cut the lead to 13-8, but a sideout winner from Eager brought Thomas to the serving line. Thomas served up three aces, Jeanblanc added a pair of kills and Eager another in a 11-point burst to make it 24-8. Jeanblanc closed out the set with a cross-court kill from the left pin.
"Our passing was off, our serving was off, and we gave them way too many freeballs with a strong front row like (Marquette) has," said Seneca coach Noah Champene. "They really took it to us. The biggest keys for us tonight were we had to serve the ball well and pass the ball well to keep them out of system ... we weren't able to either tonight. Give Marquette credit, when we did have a really good serve, they made a good pass off of it.
"The bottom line is Marquette played very well, their game was on in all facets, and ours was off. Sometimes it's just as simple as that."
The second set began with Addie McConnaughhay registering three aces, along with kills from Eager, Jeanblanc and Thomas for a 7-0 cushion. The Lady Irish battled back to as close as 11-5 on a kill by Bland, but three separate mini-service runs by Marquette helped close out the match.
"We served really aggressive tonight, and our serve-receive was great tonight," said Coach McConnaughhay. "If we want to be a team that runs an up-tempo offense, passing the ball on target to our setter off our opponents' serve is a huge key.
"We played very well tonight, and Seneca is a much better team than tonight's score shows, for sure. We just had one of those nights where everything was clicking."