Weekly Feature

2017-10-11 / Sports

Kenmore West wins ‘Kills for a Cure’ match against Mount St. Mary

Sports Reporter

Samantha Hare of Mount St. Mary connects on a curving serve during the Thunder’s loss to St. Mary’s Thursday. Mount St. Mary also fell, 3-1, in the “Kills for a Cure” match against Kenmore West. 
Photo by Jake French. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Samantha Hare of Mount St. Mary connects on a curving serve during the Thunder’s loss to St. Mary’s Thursday. Mount St. Mary also fell, 3-1, in the “Kills for a Cure” match against Kenmore West. Photo by Jake French. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The Kenmore West girls volleyball win over Mount St. Mary Friday night was about more than local bragging rights or a cross-town rivalry game. The match served as Kenmore West’s annual “Kills for a Cure” event, which raises money for Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

The event had a personal touch this year. Kathleen Veronica, the mother of Kenmore West’s Sam Veronica and a staunch Blue Devil supporter, was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago. She was honored in a ceremony before the match, where Kenmore West coach Kelly Strong thanked her for all she does for the program and read off a top-12 list of reasons why she is important to the team. The ceremony certainly created a lot of emotion around the match.

“There was definitely a lot of emotion to start off, but I’m really glad the team pulled through for my family and me,” Sam Veronica said. “I know my mom loves it. Everyone loves it. It’s nice to know we have a huge support system. The girls consider her a second mom. Everyone loves her. She really does so much for the team.”

The Lady Blue Devils jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first set, but Mount St. Mary began to storm back soon after. They went on an extended run, making the score 19-12 at one point. Kenmore West began to fight back, but the Thunder put the first set away at 25-19.

The next set featured another strong start by Kenmore West as the team jumped out to a 7-2 lead before Mount St. Mary called a timeout. Things got tighter from there as the score was within two points for much of the set. Eventually, the Thunder tied things up at 18 and Strong called timeout. The Lady Blue Devils were in danger of falling behind 2-0, a tough deficit to fight back from. But they won the first five points out of the break and held on to win the set 25-23.

“We’ve been a team that keeps our composure,” Strong said. “We’ve never been a team to be deer in the headlights. We stay the course. I have faith in the girls that they’re going to do that. To rattle off those five points was huge for us. We just kept pushing from there. We definitely got more aggressive with our serving. Our serving got a lot tougher. Our defense really got a lot better, like reading the hitters a lot better, being able to finish our passes a little more accurately. Those two things were helpful in putting us up over the edge there.”

The third set saw yet another early lead for Kenmore West, as the team again jumped out to a 7-2 lead. However, they kept that up for most of the set, leading 11-3 at one point and 22-11 at another. They finished strong with a 25-16 victory to go up 2-1 in the match.

“As inconsistent as our play was, the girls were able to finish and able to come through in pressure situations,” Strong said. “I’m hap- py about that. Can our play get a little more consistent? Yes, for sure. But we’ll take the win.”

The fourth set was a reversal of fortune, as Mount St. Mary jumped out to a 6-0 lead. But Kenmore West stormed back to tie things at 11. The set stayed within two or three points up until the end when the Lady Blue Devils started to pull away. However, the Thunder kept fighting, diving for balls and keeping volleys going. They fell 25-23, but they made Kenmore West work for it.

Abby Borkowski played a major role in the win. She had 17 kills, 21 digs and three aces. Meanwhile, Veronica had 10 digs and 32 assists.

“My outside hitter, Abby Borkowski, has been the go-to hitter all season,” Strong said. “She’s been doing a great job. Sammy played great defense, too.”

Meanwhile, it was a tough night for the Mount St. Mary team, which had a tough time stringing together good runs after a strong first set.

“It definitely was not our best match,” Mount. St. Mary coach Brittany Schukraft said. “I don’t think we played up to our full potential tonight. I think we easily took that first match, and they had it set in their mind that it would be easier than it actually was. They took complete advantage of that. They just wanted it more.

“We were running our offense pretty quick. The passing was huge for us. That’s what really fell apart after the first set, which is why we were defeated tonight. “There’s always an intensity shift, especially being down and digging yourself a hole. To be able to fight back is just experience and leadership on the court. We’ve had a lot of close matches that have gone to five sets. They just don’t quit. Tonight was not one of our nights.”

Although the Thunder fell behind in nearly every set, they continued to fight back every time. They even nearly forced a fifth set with their resilience.

“We’ve been talking about this and working on this, but sometimes there are just one or two rotations that we miss, or we have bad passing or something like that,” Schukraft said. “We’ve just been trying to work on that. They did a really good job and they were able to come back with it. That was good, because they were down a few points and they were able to work their way back.”

This is the eighth time Kenmore West has hosted the Kill for a Cure event. It’s long been an important match for the team, but this year’s win was just a little more special.

“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year,” Strong said. “They organize the entire thing. The girls really get excited about this match. It’s something fun that we can do for the community. This year we have the personal connection with Kathleen being diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a really special match for us this year in particular.”

email: tnigrelli@beenews.com

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