Defense dominates, sets tone as St. Joseph’s Academy executes 3-0 volleyball sweep

An offense that showcases prolific hitters is a delight for volleyball fans who like raw power. Unbeaten St. Joseph’s Academy stated a strong case for defense in its 3-0 nondistrict victory over Cabrini on Tuesday night at the SJA gym.

“This group play as a unit , and they don’t give up,” SJA coach Sivi Miller said. “They stay in every point and are determined to make something happen. They are determined to get to every ball.”

A balanced attack led by four players combined for 27 kills also illustrated how well the Redstickers (4-0) played in the 25-9, 25-13 and 25-11 victory.

The contest was a reunion of sorts for Miller, who coached at Cabrini before Hurricane Katrina, and Cabrini coach Kasey Laird Dennies who played for Miller at the New Orleans-based school.

Junior Anna Musso had nine kills, seven digs and three blocks to lead SJA. Grace Toler (six kills, six aces, four digs) and Olivia Judice (six kills, six assists, six digs) also were among the leaders.

Soon after the match began, it was apparent the Redstickers held an edge in experience over Cabrini’s lineup that included four freshmen.

Senior Jaylin St. Martin made her presence felt early for the Crescents with a kill that tied the first set at 3-3.

St. Joseph’s responded by methodically scoring 16 of the next 20 points. The ball seldom hit the floor as the Redstickers scooped up hit after hit by Cabrini, typically parlaying a defensive pickup into a solid offense chance. Early service errors and hitting errors also put the Crescents in a hole they could not get out of.

“First of all, I think you have to give a ton of credit to St. Joe’s defense. They were lights out,” Dennies said. “We struggled to put a ball away. We knew we would have growing pains because we have four freshmen starting and three on the court at all times.

“Our end game is to be good in November. St. Joe’s is definitely a force to be reckoned with. I don’t know that I have seen a team play that good a defense in a long time.”

Musso’s kill from the left side ended the first set at 25-9. Cabrini had chances to reset the match. The Crescents led 5-1 in the second set and 8-3 in the third. Both times St. Joseph’s calmly took control.

“I think we took advantage of every ball that came on our side of the net,” Toler said. “I’m proud of our defense.”

Musso added, “I think I really connected with the setters today, which made it easier. Our setters were able to take whatever pass they were given and set us up really well.”

SJA scored nine straight points to take control in the second set. Musso, Erin Beene and Julia Dwelle all contributed kills during the decisive surge.

The Redstickers outscored Cabrini 11-2 in their takeover of the final set and then scored 11 straight points to complete the three-set sweep.

“We are all really good friends and know we have to talk through things so no one gets mad,” Musso said. “And we know how to play with each other.”

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