Celtic volleyball takes round one in straight sets

One down, four to go.

No. 8 McNary volleyball opened postseason play the same way much of the regular season went, with a straight set victory. 

They had done it 13 times in the regular season, and Wednesday night’s 3-0 match finish against No. 25 McDaniel High School moves the Celtics on to a second round matchup against No. 9 Sprague.

Wednesday night’s action quickly went in the favor of the Celtics. They cruised in the first set to a 25-10 win, mainly behind strong serving from Bella Rodriguez and Kayla Toavs.

“Bella’s placement, her serving accuracy is phenomenal,” head coach Crystal Ayres said. “Once they get on a role, that’s something we depend on.”

Rodriguez’s initial serves helped the Celts take control with six points to separate from a 2-2 tie, and Toavs helped them finish off the Mountain Lions in the first set.

In both the first and second sets the Celtics had a chance at holding the Mountain Lions to single-digits. At one point in the second set McNary had a 20-5 advantage, and even held service with set point at 24-9 before closing it out 25-13.

Allowing single digits is a rarity, and while some programs may look at it as an accomplishment to hang their hats on, Ayres sees those sets as chances to get more bodies on the floor.

“It creates game opportunities for people who need those game opportunities,” Ayres said. “That’s how I use those times.”

The third set looked much the same to start. McNary got out to an early lead, forcing a timeout from McDaniel with the score 13-4.

Whatever was said during the break must have worked, as the Mountain Lions clawed their way back, eventually tying the set at 16 a piece. 

Maybe it was the changes in rotation, Ayres taking advantage of those game opportunities, but it just took the Celtics a little time to get back in form.

“It takes a second to turn on and be comfortable being aggressive and gain that game confidence,” Ayres said. “Once they did so I thought they settled in really well and got ourselves back in the system.”

For much of the season, it seemed when Ayres and the Celtics needed to kill the momentum of their opponents, they would turn to senior middle blocker Emily Blagg. 

As the action late in the third set rolled on, the Celtics stayed in some rotations longer, and it took a little time to be able to re-insert Blagg back in the game. 

But when Blagg was back out there, she and the Celtics took control, finishing the third set 25-23.

“Once we got her back in she did what she does,” Ayres said.

The win sets up a meeting with conference rival Sprague, the fourth meeting between the two this season. Sprague won the regular season series 2-1 en route to a conference championship.

The second round matchup is set for Saturday at McNary. Time is still to be made official, but a tentative time of 1 p.m. was announced.