Garaway Volleyball

Mustangs roll to early leads and put away Lady Pirates in a sibling match-up

Baillie Donley

Garaway has a very competitive volleyball team in an Inter-Valley Conference South that is loaded with great teams.

However, the Lady P’s are young, and with that comes a learning curve. The message in their Tuesday, Sept. 25 contest with Claymont in Sugarcreek is they can’t afford to fall behind early to good teams.

The Mustangs took advantage of a couple of large leads and rode that momentum to a 25-18, 25-17, 27-25 victory that served as a valuable lesson for Garaway’s girls.

“We definitely didn’t step out with a lot of intensity to start out with,” Garaway head coach Jess Schwartz said. “When you decide to start to compete at point five or 10 of game three, you aren’t helping yourself. You’re not giving yourself a very good chance to win against a team the caliber of Claymont.”

Before they could even catch their breath, the Lady Pirates were trailing 10-4 in game one as hard-hitting Keanna Avery gave the Mustangs a lead they would not come close to losing. Garaway did manage to crawl back into contention with a pair of Emma Warkall aces, a kill by Laiken Wallick and two more from Brooklyn Frey, but at 14-11 Ryleigh Ronald recorded a big kill that sent Claymont on a big run that saw them push back out to a 22-14 lead. Garaway recaptured the serve and got two kills from Warkall and a service ace from Baillie Donley, but Avery drilled a key kill, and Ronald ended things with a block to give the Mustangs a game-one victory.

Game two was nearly a repeat of game one, although a couple of nice kills from Andi Starner kept Garaway close early at 4-4. However, a couple of Grace Birney aces and two more kills from Avery and the Mustangs were rolling again up 8-4. Frey got a kill to stop the run, but Ronald began making a huge impact at the net, pushing the Claymont lead to 16-8.

Down by eight at 22-13, the Lady P’s began making some noise as Starner, Brooke Werker and Frey all connected for kills, but it was too little too late, and Garaway had dug itself into a huge hole.

Game three was a back-and-forth affair that saw both teams utilize a variety of options. Mackenzi Veltschy stepped up to join Avery and Ronald to make some big plays for Claymont while Werker, Frey and Wallick started pounding away for Garaway.

With the score tied at 10, Wallick stepped to the service line and gave the Lady P’s a 17-12 lead as Kori Gutheridge and Starner both nailed kills.

That lead lasted all of a time-out when Claymont stepped back on to the court and reeled off a solid run of eight points to retake the lead at 20-17 as the Mustangs started looking for Avery.

Garaway wasn’t going to go quietly, and Frey and Warkall rallied with kills to draw even at 20. Frey and Avery then went toe to toe, and when the smoke cleared, it was 23-all. Garaway scored off a Claymont miscue and had a chance to grab a win but failed to do so, and after Avery recorded a kill, Claymont had another unforced error to tie things at 25. Claymont found its rhythm and a long point to get to 26. This was followed by a game-ending service ace from Reagan Norman.

“Our girls have worked so hard, and each time out we seem to get more and more comfortable,” Claymont head coach Jill Grove said. “They have the ability, but their hearts are in the right place, and they have been a blessing for me to coach. They have shown a lot of composure, and I told the girls during Garaway’s run that we were doing things the right way. Garaway was just playing really well, and they were hitting more at us than we were hitting at them. We just talked during that time-out about staying aggressive and keep attacking, and we needed to make everything intentional. Some of my teams in past years might have started going the wrong way when something like that happens and we face some adversity, but not this group.”

“We saw how well we can play at times in that third game, and we have had moments this year where we have risen to the occasion, but we need to be more consistent,” Schwartz said. “There is still a big learning curve for a young team, and that showed playing a team of this caliber.”

Wallick, a freshman, continues to step into a bigger and bigger role, and Schwartz said she is no longer playing like a freshman. Her top-notch serving has helped her grow in confidence. As for Frey, who continues to lead the team in kills on a regular basis, Schwartz said when the day arrives that she realizes she can dominate, it will be a fantastic day.

“She is a game-changer for us,” Schwartz said. “She has such a natural touch on the ball.”

In the end the Lady Pirates had a difficult time defending Avery and Ronald at the net. Both played huge roles in the Claymont win, and Avery has been perhaps the best player in the area this season, wielding a nasty ability to hammer shots straight down and to utilize the lines as well as going across court for a kill.

“What a blessing,” Grove said of Avery, “she has more athletic ability in her little pinky than I ever had in my whole body, but she also has so much heart to match that. She is so aggressive, but she is a great teammate, and she is a coach’s dream.”

Avery will attend Wheeling Jesuit on a full ride next season.

The win moved Claymont to 11-4 overall and 5-1 in the IVC South, meaning they stay tied with Indian Valley and Hiland, which are chasing close behind with two losses.

Grove and Schwartz share a common bond aside from volleyball

While Claymont and Garaway were hard at it as opposing teams on the volleyball court, on the sideline they waged a very unique aspect of this contest.

Both Schwartz and Grove grew up as Hardings playing at Garaway High School. The two are sisters, and that brings a new twist into a game that can become heated when two quality programs get after it. However, blood is thicker than anything that can happen on the court for these two sisters.

“My sister is my best friend, and I have so much respect for her and for what she has already done with this Garaway program,” Grove said. “We have played a lot of volleyball together, and we consider this a real blessing to get together and meet each other like this.”

As always there is a sibling rivalry involved in a contest like this one. Both coaches wanted to win badly, yet they each wanted to see the other’s team perform well.

“Volleyball has always been an important part of our lives, and it is neat to be able to share our passion for the game with each other,” Schwartz said. “With both of us being competitive, we aren’t going to put our dukes away when we play each other, but it is good to know that games like this are going to help both of our programs.”

Claymont has been terrific in Grove’s four seasons at the helm. They are currently in position to claim the IVC South title in what is an incredibly deep and rugged league. While Garaway maintains a pace right around .500, Grove sees the Lady Pirates program moving in the right direction.

“She will get this program to where these girls deserve it to be,” Grove said of her sister. “She is a great coach, and she will do wonders at Garaway.”

Schwartz said this game will surely be a topic of conversation down the road, and the two close-knit sisters oftentimes bounce ideas, strategies and coaching tips with one another despite battling in the same league.

“It’s been fun to have that person who understands the game and what you’re going through to talk to,” said Schwartz, who graduated three years ahead of Grove at GHS.

While the two sisters never played together for Garaway, they were still close enough in age to be quite competitive growing up.

Schwartz said their sisterly love for one another doesn’t really affect how they approach games when facing each other. She said she has enough to focus on with her own team to worry about any sibling rivalry.

“There is a lot of love and respect between us, and there is no way we would ever let a game come between that,” Schwartz said.

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