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Prep volleyball: When it counts

Saugus executes late to earn victory in Foothill opener

Posted: September 30, 2010 10:49 p.m.
Updated: October 1, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Saugus middle blocker Ashley Pagan, right, goes for the ball as teammate Kristen McCord, left, and West Ranch middle blocker Bree Braucher (11) look on at Saugus High School on Thursday. The Centurions won the match 3-0.

Saugus girls volleyball has high expectations this season.

Facing West Ranch in both teams' Foothill League opener, the Centurions took the first step in achieving them Thursday night.

Saugus executed down the stretch and capitalized on Wildcat miscues to earn an embattled 3-0 victory at Saugus High School.

"These girls love pressure," said Centurions head coach Zach Ambrose. "We've got a lot of girls that have played in high-level clubs, and they seem to thrive when the pressure is on."

Saugus (10-11, 1-0) won by scores of 26-24, 25-23, 25-23. When the score was tight, Saugus always seemed to have an answer late in the game.

West Ranch (8-8, 0-1) led at one point in all three games, but 17 service errors were too much for the Wildcats to overcome.

"We missed 17 serves. That's a huge thing to give up 17 free points," said West Ranch head coach Nate Sparks. "They didn't earn those points. We handed them over."

The Centurions committed 11 service errors of their own.

The Wildcats led throughout the entire first game until Saugus outside hitter Jaclyn Clark landed a kill that put the Centurions up 25-24. Middle blocker Ashley Pagan completed the comeback with her game-winning kill on the following point.

"I think we just got in our heads a little bit, so we just had to huddle up and tell ourselves to calm down," said Saugus opposite Sarah Blomgren. She finished with 11 kills and four blocks on the day.

The Centurions committed most of their errors in the first game, giving West Ranch a steady advantage. On multiple occasions, Saugus appeared to be poised for a scoring run, but the Wildcats' strong middle play kept the home team in check.

West Ranch middle blocker Bree Braucher led the team with four blocks in addition to her eight kills.

"We've been working really hard on our blocking, especially in the summer," Braucher said. "I'm glad we were able to go out there and make some plays up front."

The two teams reversed roles in the second game, as Saugus clung to a slight lead throughout. The Wildcats tied the score at 20 with an ace from outside hitter Hannah Orlandi, but an error on the following serve gave the advantage back to the Centurions. Orlandi led the team with 13 kills.

After the teams exchanged a few side-outs, it was again a service error that cost West Ranch the game.

"Our girls were playing aggressive offense the whole time," Sparks said. "This was our best all-around volleyball minus the serving."

Saugus took the early advantage in the final game, opening a 12-7 lead off a Clark kill. She finished with a team-high 13 kills.

West Ranch again mounted a comeback, but it fell short when Orlandi's attack was blocked.

"There were times our team split a little bit," Braucher said. "We were able to regroup, but it was just too late."



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