Front from left: Allison Sutton, Elise Wolff and Jaci Juergens. Back from left: Brooke Salazar and Aricka LaVoy.
The Blade/Lori King
PEMBERVILLE -- The Eastwood volleyball team may not have a player taller than 5-foot-10, but the Eagles continue to consistently soar over their competition.
Eastwood (12-1) employs a sophisticated, quick-paced attack to compensate for its lack of height.
The Eagles, No. 19 in the Division II state coaches poll, are seeking their fourth straight league title under fourth-year coach Jeff Beck. Eastwood won the final two Suburban Lakes League championships and then won the first Northern Buckeye Conference title last fall.
In previous seasons, the Eagles have had a tall, single individual to lead the way.
But 5-10 senior middle hitter Allison Sutton and 5-9 senior outside hitter Brooke Salazar as well as junior Elise Wolff, also 5-10, have all been equally effective attackers.
"We don't have a 6-footer," Beck said. "So we have to have good ball control and good defense. We're trying to get them to have an arsenal in their hitting repertoire and they are getting it. We truly are a ball control team."
Sutton leads the team with 125 kills but is followed closely by Wolff (117) and Salazar (116).
Beck said his first three years at Eastwood he had that "one, go-to hitter" that would have at least 80 more kills than any other team member.
"Now it's almost even with three girls and that's really helping us this year," Beck said. "The other team can't key on one person. It's really big."
Sutton, who also leads the team with 26 blocks, said the offense relies on sophistication and speed. She said the players also work hard on increasing their vertical jumping ability.
"We are really smart about seeing the other side and we all have good verticals," Sutton said.
Wolff, an outside hitter who has 93 digs and 11 blocks, said good offensive execution is paramount.
"It's very critical because we aren't very tall," Wolff said. "But we try to get as high as we can. We have great defense, great setting, and offense."
Beck said other teams can't pinch toward one side.
"They can't do that against us. They don't know where my setter is going," he said.
Beck also credited his defensive specialist, 5-7 senior libero Aricka LaVoy. Beck said LaVoy is both fast and aggressive. LaVoy, who has 27 aces, is one of just three seniors.
"She not only has technical skills but she has the mentality that if it is anywhere in her house she is going to take it," Beck said. "And the other girls accept that because she's that good."
LaVoy, who leads the Eagles with 259 digs, said the team must be good at all aspects.
"We have to be faster on passing so that we can swing faster so that their block is not there. That helps because we're a smaller team," LaVoy said.
Jaci Juergens, a 5-8 sophomore setter, leads the team in both assists (368) and aces (39).
Beck said 5-7 junior Cassidy Rolf is doing a great job in the middle. Rolf, the sister of former NBC player of the year Courtney, has 16 blocks.
Freshman Mackenzie Albright (24 aces) and right-side hitter Sarah Klink, a junior, round out the starting lineup.
The Eagles are 8-0 in the NBC and are two games up on Rossford (6-2) and Elmwood (5-2).
"We want to win it again because we don't want to let anyone down who has already graduated," Sutton said. "We want to do it for ourselves, too, because we are such a close group."
The team's only loss came in five sets to Clay.
Beck said the program's goal is to be able to scrimmage with elite Division I teams.
"We want to hang with them and we do," Beck said.
He said he will put up his team's ball control ability against any team in the state.
Beck said his tri-captains are extremely dedicated to winning a fourth straight league title.
"They don't want it to end their fourth year and they are really focused on that," Beck said.
He said the team's mantra is one point, one game, and one match at a time.
Beck, who previously coached at Perrysburg, said when he came to Eastwood three seasons ago, the athleticism was already there.
"We just really keyed on speeding up our offense," he said.
His team employs a "tempo pass" system.
"We set it faster," Beck said. "We pass faster."
Eastwood was seeded No. 1 in the district last season but lost in the semifinals to Celina, a third straight season that team eliminated the Eagles.
"Celina has been our enemy," Beck said.
But Bryan (13-2) may be the Eagles' biggest obstacle at the district because Celina lost eight players to graduation.
Salazar, who is second with 110 digs, said the team's ultimate goal would be to match the state title captured by the Eagles in 1993.
"We practice all aspects of the game," Salazar said. "We know we aren't the tallest team but we try to overcome that by excelling in all the rest of the areas."
Beck said his team must have 100 percent focus.
"We are looking to get to the Sweet 16 and anything less than that would be disappointing," Beck said.
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.