Sadie Thomas

Maplewood’s Sadie Thomas tallied six of the Tigers’ 17 aces during the match.

Thursday night’s Region 4 girls volleyball matchup at the Launch Pad featured two teams in different places in their respective programs. The Maplewood Tigers are on the hunt to get back to the District 10 Championship Game, while the Titusville Rockets are learning on the fly following a departure of a strong senior class.

Maplewood earned a 3-0 sweep of the match for its sixth-straight victory, improving to 9-2 overall and 6-1 in Region 4 competition. The Tigers took all three sets by at least double digits, 25-14, 25-13, 25-10.

Sadie Thomas led the Tiger attack with 13 kills and served six of Maplewood’s 17 aces. Chloe Leech and Avery Brunot chipped in nine and seven kills, respectively. Bailey Varndell added 26 assists and three aces. Leech paced the defense with seven digs and contributed four aces.

Mackenna Marvin, Sarah Cole and Ava Hartshorne each totaled three kills for Titusville (3-5 overall, 2-5 Region 4). Hannah Obert racked up 10 assists, while Maddie Reed led the defense with 10 digs. Brooklyn Wakefield and Cole added six and three digs, respectively.

Thursday’s match began the second half of the Region 4 schedule for both teams and Maplewood coach Sheila Bancroft believes her Tigers are “moving in the right direction” as the postseason draws closer.

“We’re improving,” Bancroft said. “Still, I think our defense is the key, and we have to keep working on our serve-receive at practice. We’re just going to take one step at a time and enjoy what we have left.”

The Tigers were dealt an early blow to their playoff chances with libero Maddie Woge lost for the season due to injury. However, senior Madison Crawford has stepped into those shoes. She contributed four digs and two assists on Thursday, and Bancroft is happy to see the game-by-game improvement.

“It’s definitely a big loss, but Madison is doing a great job and she is getting better each match,” Bancroft said. “Her passing game is equal to Woge’s, and we knew that going in. It’s Woge’s defense and serves that we’re going to miss. Madison is growing. She’s a senior and she a great player, but she just played behind a great libero (at the beginning of the season).”

Another aspect of Maplewood’s game that they are trying to sure up is posing multiple threats on the attack. With Thomas and Leech, the Tigers have a pair of dominant hitters on the outside. Bancroft and her players are working toward building some presence in the middle with the likes of Brunot and Madison Vergona.

“I thought it was a great night for Avery,” Bancroft said. “We got her involved in the game early on. We need to have more than just that one-two punch on the outside. I think coming down the stretch Avery is going to help us out a lot. Madison Vergona has that potential. If she can get three or four kills in a set or match for us, that’s important. We just have to get her the ball a little bit.”

Maplewood’s next task will be hosting Franklin on Tuesday at 7 p.m. before a rematch on Thursday against Conneaut Area. The Eagles handed the Tigers their only region loss so far this season back on Sept. 22 in Linesville.

Meanwhile for Titusville, the home team is looking toward building for the future and taking as much away as they can from these difficult region matches. Coming into Thursday’s match, the Rockets had won three out of their last four contests. 

Although Titusville was swept for the second time this season by Maplewood, Rocket head coach Greg Houck was happy with some of the improvements made in the second go-around.

“I thought we competed against them better this time than we did the last time,” Houck said. “I felt like we were getting more attacks. Some kids that haven’t had much varsity time are starting to make plays. At times, we were right there, and we weren’t laying down.”

Houck was pleased with his hitters taking more aggressive swings, including Cole and Hartshorne.

“I thought we were swinging at the ball and had better front-row play,” Houck said. “Ava is starting to swing at the ball a little bit more and figuring out how to use more of her body to get torque involved.”

Despite the loss, Titusville’s spirits are looking up. The Rockets will have a non-region matchup against Cambridge Springs on Monday at the Launch Pad before getting back to Region 4 action on Wednesday when Meadville comes to town.

“They’re not down right now,” Houck said of his players. “Part of our issue is that we don’t think we can compete with these tougher teams, but we saw spurts tonight that we did. There were times tonight where I think our girls felt that we were doing some things against a pretty good team. Right now, the mentality is better than earlier in the season.”

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