Saturday, June 15

    Kirtland knocks off league rival Berkshire for sectional title

    - Advertisment -

    A split with Berkshire during the regular season forced Kirtland to share the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title with the Badgers.

    On Saturday, the Hornets settled the score by defeating Berkshire in a Division III sectional championship match, 3-1.

    “That felt really good,” said Kirtland coach Ricky Sanders. “They girls came out and brought it tonight. Everybody contributed tonight and we lessened our errors that we had against them in our last match against them. We played really well tonight.”

    The Hornets won the match 26-24, 23-25, 25-17, 25-18, exacting some revenge against the Badgers, who earned a regular season split with the Hornets.

    “After splitting the conference, it felt really good to win this one,” said senior Nina Loncar. “Especially after going 1-1 with them in the regular season, we definitely had some unfinished business.”

    Kirtland dug itself into a deep hole to start the first set but rallied back from a seven-point deficit to beat the Badgers in a highly competitive first frame.

    The Badgers made the plays down the stretch to win the second set by two points, but Kirtland found its groove and held off the Badgers in the final two sets to win the match.

    “They wanted it so bad tonight,” Sanders said. “They came in fired up and they knew we were handicapped when we played them the last time (with injuries), so we knew that if we were full strength, we’d be able to battle with them and go toe-to-toe with them.”

    The early deficit didn’t faze the Hornets.

    “I told the girls to just stay focused,” Sanders said. “That’s all I wanted them to do. I said, ‘We’ve been in this position with them before and they’ve taken big leads on us, and we’ve come back before. I told them to stay focused on every single point and they did it.”

    After Berkshire won the second set, Kirtland responded by amping up its intensity and pace of play.

    “They put some runs together but in the last two sets, we put a lot of pressure on them to score,” Sanders said. “We focused more on their big middle and Maddie (Smetana). Once we focused on those two, we knew where the ball was going to go. We stayed on them and blocked Maddie and the middle a lot.”

    Kirtland recorded 17 blocks in the game with Keely Young controlling the middle with a team-high six blocks. Loncar added five, Georgia DeJohn and Kristiana Katic contributed with three blocks each, Katie Reynolds added two, and Nora Withrow finished with one.

    Reynolds missed Kirtland’s loss to Berkshire during the regular season.

    Loncar led the Hornets with 19 kills and DeJohn, who didn’t play in either of Kirtland’s regular season matches against the Badgers, added 17. Nina Alfieri recorded a whopping 36 digs in the match.

    Loncar’s success at the net was the result of in-match adjustments.

    “In the first set, I noticed their block was pretty stuck on me, so I knew I had to work my way around it and run other things,” she said. “With some help from my setter, we sped up our offense and found what worked.”

    Kirtland’s adjustments on offense and in setting the block paid dividends.

    “We know Berkshire has a big block and solid hitters, so our offense really had to play smart this game,” Loncar said. “Our defense and serve receive was very clean as well which ultimately helped us win.”

    The Hornets, who improved to 15-8, advanced to play Cortland Lakeview in a district semifinal at Medina on Oct. 25.

    Smetana led Berkshire with 19 kills, including the 1,000th of her career, and 17 digs. She also recorded four blocks. Sammi Winter added 14 digs and 11 assists, Hayley Stoddard contributed with five blocks and four kills, and Marissa Rish finished with 18 assists, 13 digs, and six kills.



    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.


    Most Read

    2022 Ohio Varsity Volleyball Player of the Year Finalists

    The five finalists have been selected for the 2022 Ohio Varsity Volleyball Player of the Year.

    Shop Volleyball