Wednesday, April 24

    Independence cruises past rival Cuyahoga Heights

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    Independence improved to 3-0 on the season with a dominating 3-0 home win over rival Cuyahoga Heights on Tuesday.

    The Blue Devils won the match, 25-23, 25-13, 25-11 to clinch their 129th straight conference win.

    “It was very exciting to beat our rivals in our own house,” said Independence senior Emily Richards. “When we were warming up, we could tell there were some new faces on the other side of the court and it was clear they’ve improved in the offseason, so we were looking forward to a good game. After the first set, we knew we had to really dial in to be able to pull out a sweep and the next two sets went over better for us.”

    Cuyahoga Heights pushed Independence in the first set, but the Blue Devils dominated the final two sets once they settled into the atmosphere and flow of the match.

    “Being able to go out and play against our rival school with all of my peers and friends watching us in the stands makes everything so much better,” said junior Sofia Smotek. “Feeling the support and encouragement from all of them, especially against such a big game for Indy, is just incredible every time.”

    Independence has plenty of new faces in its lineup as well, but Smotek is pleased with how well each player has settled into their roles.

    “So far, having three regular season games, I can already see the team forming and getting better in every set,” Smotek said. “From the beginning of the season at our first preseason scrimmage to playing our third regular season game and having a lot of success so far is truly comforting for me to see.”

    Haley Wilson owned the net against the Red Wolves as she hammered home every set Alberta Moreal sent her way.

    “Haley Wilson was truly a shining star for us tonight. Every time Alberta gave her a set, she got a kill. She was very reliable tonight, as she stayed calm and continued to work hard with the team throughout the whole match,” Smotek said. “The key to success tonight was definitely just staying focused and playing our game. In the first set, we did scare ourselves a little bit, but we continued to fight and work together through every play, and I really do think that is what brought us our success tonight.”

    Smotek also did her part to lead the Blue Devils to the win.

    “The whole team really contributed; it was definitely a team win,” Richards said. “But a few standouts in my opinion were Haley Wilson and Sofia Smotek. Wilson was able to get us out of some long runs on serve receive with strong hits on the right-side. Smotek was a weapon all-around. She was attacking out of the back row and front row from all spots, and she was really efficient on offense.”

    Independence is now 3-0 and has won all nine sets it played this season.

    “The team is coming together very well,” Richards said. “Three straight sweeps is a great start to the season especially because we are still trying to figure out some of our moving parts. We have new people in new positions, and it just helps that we have good chemistry on the court. When things get a little shaky, we are always able to reel it back in because we trust each other so much which is the key to a lot of our success so far in the season.”




    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.


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