Cougars Sweep Dunkirk In North

Cassadaga Valley’s Heidi Williams returns a volley against Dunkirk during CCAA North Division action in Dunkirk on Monday. Photo by Ron Szot

DUNKIRK — After showing life in the first set with a big rally against tough Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association North Division opponent Cassadaga Valley, Dunkirk (3-1, 2-1) looked poised to win the set.

Ultimately, the Cougars held on a for a 25-22 win to jump-start an eventual three-set victory Monday evening.

Cassadaga Valley (2-2, 2-0) ended up prevailing 25-22, 25-15, 25-16.

In the first set, the Cougars were the first team to take control as they took advantage of Dunkirk errors, at one point jumping to a 10-3 lead. In the face of a big deficit on their home court, the Marauders took the first timeout in an effort to slow the Cougars. The Marauders timeout proved to be quite effective, as it slowed the pace of Cassadaga Valley seeing the Cougars commit errors of their own.

Cassadaga Valley’s lead began to dwindle after it looked to win the first set by a large margin, but the Marauders did not want to give up anything easy on their home court.

“We’ve done that multiple times,” said Dunkirk head coach Kate Stahlman, referring to coming back from a big deficit. “One of our strong points was that our girls were able to come together as a team and were able bring it back like that. Once they come together and have that mindset that they’re gonna do it, they usually just go right for it and get it done.”

Dunkirk’s comeback was felt by the Cougars when the score reached 20-16 still in favor of Cassadaga Valley, causing them to call a timeout in an effort to gather themselves and close out the set. The timeout was not as effective as the Dunkirk one called earlier, as the Marauders battled to within one point, trailing 23-22. Unfortunately for Dunkirk, its comeback would not be fulfilled as it surrendered the next two points, losing 25-22.

“Well it was our first league match of the year,” Cassadaga Valley head coach Denny Wakelee said. “So the girls were a little nervous and I think that first set they had a little bit of jitters, but once they settled down … started playing our game I think they kind of got their heads together and ended up getting the win for us.”

The second set played out nearly identical to the first, seeing the Cougars jump out to another early lead. Dunkirk trailed 11-6, then Jessica Beehler stepped up to the service line. Beehler gave the Marauders exactly what they needed, powering them to a five-point run with two aces, making it 11-10 Cassadaga Valley.

Unlike the first set, Cassadaga Valley immediately matched the strong play of Dunkirk by going on a run of their own, getting up to a 18-10 lead. The Cougars continued that runs momentum and ran away with the lead for an eventual 25-15 victory.

“The first set we had 10 attacking errors alone,” Wakelee said. “We gave the ball away way too many times — way too many points. And in the second one we dropped it down to five (attacking errors). So we cut that part in half, which is not only big for the score, but also for morale.”

In the third set, neither side seized the lead in the early going. The Cougars were first to reach double-digits and they began to run away with the lead. In the final set, the Cougars showed no sign of losing their lead as they powered to a final of 25-16.

“I love playing against other challenging teams,” Stahlman said, “because then it challenges my players as well and it kind of helps them learn from their mistakes.”

The Cougars were led to victory by Meghan LeBaron with four kills, four blocks and two aces; Heidi Williams with seven kills and three digs; Abby DuBois with five aces and two kills; and Kaitlyn Dahl with 17 assists, three digs and an ace.

“I liked that the front row was getting a lot of blocks,” Wakelee said. “Dunkirk had a couple good hitters so we were able to get a few blocks, that was nice. I still want to work on our first pass, our serve receive. We’re not getting it to the center as much as we need to, that’ll help open up the offense a lot more.”

Dunkirk’s effort was led by Beehler with six aces, three hits and three blocks; Amari Carter with a hit and four blocks; and Nadara O’Dell with five hits and two blocks.

“Communication is one,” said Stahlman when asked what her team needs to work on. “Also not getting mad at themselves, I know they get really hard on themselves and they need to learn that everyone makes mistakes. Once you come together and build that resilience — that’s when they’re able to pull through and make it happen.”