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LYNN — When you match up against your crosstown rival, you have to bring your best effort.
Both the Classical and English volleyball teams did that Thursday in the first round of the Lynn City Tournament at Tony Conigliaro Gym. But in the end, the Rams came away with a 3-1 win to move on to the championship match.
“It was like tooth and nail every set,” Rams coach Frank DeLuca said. “We just needed somebody to get up there and make a bunch of serves and swing some momentum for three or four points. It could’ve went either way. The thing I liked was after a loss in the second set they came back. I like that effort and mental toughness.”
The Rams won by set scores of 25-10, 22-25, 25-15 and 25-19 and it took an all around team effort. Chloe Clement led the Rams with six kills while Pamela Diaz, Jean Gupton Morrison and Cherish Nwoko each had three kills.
The Bulldogs had a solid defensive game, led by captain Angel Batista, but ultimately couldn’t get over the hump against a tough Classical team.
“Classical has had a very impressive season,” English coach Mike Haddad said. “They fight really hard. Unfortunately it was a little bit of history repeating itself. We played them earlier this season and also lost the first set, beat them in the second and lost the third and fourth.
“But on the whole I was really happy with the way that our team played,” Haddad said. “Most of the sets they kept the score really close. They were going toe to toe with Classical. I always tell my team day one no matter if we win or lose, as long as I feel like they’re playing their hardest I’ll never be upset. That’s what I felt like (Thursday).”
English and Classical stayed tight midway through the first set. After the Rams took a slight lead English got right back into it thanks to a pair of blocks from Merily Folestal to cut the Classical lead to 10-9.
But that’s as close as the Bulldogs got. Amber Crayton served a pair of aces and led the Rams on a 10-point run to go ahead 20-9 and Classical won the first set handily.
English wasn’t ready to pack in however and both teams went toe to toe late in the second set, leading to a 22-22 tie. From there Batista got an ace and Abnerliz Ocasio-Lugo got English the win with a kill to tie things up at 1-1.
“I think the second set we were really sloppy we made so many unforced errors,” DeLuca said. “A lot of times the girls are trying to do too much. They make a mistake and try to overcome it all at one time. You can’t do that. You have to turn the page and stay focused.”
Classical refocused in the last two sets but English didn’t make things easy. After a close start in the third set a pair of late four-point rallies led by service points from Brooke Warren and Gupton Morrison were the difference in a 25-15 Rams win.
Classical built up an early 6-1 lead in the fourth set. English clawed back and cut the Rams lead to as few as three points later in the set but a handful of unforced errors were the difference in a 25-19 Rams win to take the match.
The Rams will take on St. Mary’s in the championship match Friday (5). English will battle with Tech in the consolation match Friday (3:30). All matches will be played at St. Mary’s.