JEFFERSON - In theory, volleyball is a very simple sport. Keep the ball from hitting the floor on your side of the net and make sure it hits the floor on the other team's side. The complexity arises in how a team arrives at that end.
In a Division II sectional championship at Falcon Gymnasium, Lakeview just kept hammering away at the Geneva defense, making the Eagles scramble to just keep the ball alive before slamming the ball into a hole created by the scramble in a 25-20, 25-17, 27-25 victory.
"I felt like we never got into a rhythm," Geneva coach Annah Haeseler said. "It was passing. We didn't really run anything because the pass wasn't there. We were just a little off."
With the win, sixth-seeded Lakeview (20-4) advances to a district semifinal matchup with second-seeded Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin. It will be just the third district appearance in school history and the first since 2004 for the Bulldogs.
"Traditionally, we never play to our potential up here," Lakeview coach Scott Taylor said. "Our last two matches up here, we've finally played to our potential."
Where the Eagles (16-7) struggled to play defense, the Bulldogs had little of the same trouble.
"Our back row did a phenomenal job getting (setter Caitlin McDivitt) the ball," Taylor said. "Lauren (Cassasa), Rachelle (Calvin) and Taylor (Waid) did a phenomenal job getting Caitlin the ball. It all starts with the pass.
"We couldn't pass," Haeseler said. "We were focused on getting the ball in play. We were out of system a lot.
"I felt like we were hitting it right to them every time. I was telling the girls we were making them look awesome. They were digging up all of our stuff."
Once Lakeview got the pass to McDivitt, she put the ball exactly where it needed to be for the hitters.
"That's two matches in a row (McDivitt was nearly perfect)," Taylor said. "Against Edgewood (on Monday), she was absolutely money. She was spot on every time."
McDivitt routinely put hitters Marissa Naples and Calli Schmitt in position to finish off the points.
"Marissa and Calli are our go-to people," Taylor said. "When the other team starts to focus on them, our outside hitters are usually one-on-one. The defense rotates to Marissa and Calli, so the others have relatively easy shots."
At times, though, it didn't matter if the defense had rotated to stop Naples. She still found ways to slam the ball home.
"Their middle just owned us," Haeseler said. "That was it. She just owned us. We were constantly playing defense. We never got our offense going."
Naples finished with 21 kills and Schmitt added 13 more for the Bulldogs. McDivitt had 43 assists.
In Game 1, two kills from Naples gave Lakeview a 14-11 lead. Three more from Whitney Winch made it 24-19 and Schmitt finished off the game with an ace tip.
Lakeview got out to a 5-0 lead in the second game behind three kills from Calvin and another from Naples. Two kills from Naples had the Bulldogs in front, 24-14. A Naples ace spike ended the game.
"I always tell the girls Game 2 is the most important," Taylor said. "Win or lose Game 1, it doesn't matter. I thought we played our best set in the second."
The Eagles opened the third game with a 4-2 lead behind two ace spikes from Chelsea Scafuro and held the lead until a Schmitt kill knotted the score, 17-17. Geneva led as late as 25-24, but a kill from Naples tied at 25-25. A passing errors by Geneva and a kill from Schmitt closed the match.
"Game 3 was great," Haeseler said. "But once they went to their middles ..."
Haeseler didn't need to close the thought. Schmitt and Naples had their way.
Ettinger is a freelance writer for the Ashtabula Star Beacon