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Blue Devils get past Greyhound spikers

VIRGINIA -- There's nothing like a well-planned good cop/bad cop routine to get the competitive juices flowing again. Virginia head coach Leslie Kangas and assistant coach Jackie Witty played the contrasting roles for their Blue Devils volleyball...

VIRGINIA -- There's nothing like a well-planned good cop/bad cop routine to get the competitive juices flowing again.
Virginia head coach Leslie Kangas and assistant coach Jackie Witty played the contrasting roles for their Blue Devils volleyball team in the third game of their match with Duluth East on Saturday afternoon.
Host Virginia had won the initial two games by scores of 15-12 and 15-12. But in game three of the Sub-Section 7AAA semifinal contest at the Devils' gym, the mood was one of disarray.
The Greyhounds, a young but tall and powerful team, were scrapping for points, and the Devils were jettisoning more in their direction with some rare faux pas.
"It wouldn't be the first time a team had trailed 0-2 and came back to win," said Kangas. "I told our kids at that point that East was the squad that looked like they had a 2-0 lead. They were playing to win, while it seemed like we were playing not to lose. But it didn't really help, because we kept playing poorly."
When Kangas gave her pep talk, the Devils trailed 5-1. By the time she signaled for another timeout, the deficit had grown to 8-2. This time, she tugged at Jackie Witty's arm and told her to do her stuff.
"Coach Witty had written her speech out on the stat sheet," said Kangas. "She explained to our girls that we were the ones who had the maturity. On average, each of our kids had two to three years more experience than them. She said we're the ones who had put the time in, so let's start playing like it."
After pondering those words of wisdom, Virginia began shaking off the doldrums and showing their age.
Sophomores Katie Garrick and Lindsey Predovich, among others, began fine-tuning their game, and East began to buckle. A cross-court kill by Garrick closed the gap to 11-7. East snuck in two points during a good streak of sideouts, but Virginia was able to reel off the next seven.
After Predovich gained back the ball with a mammoth kill, East made two errors in a row, forcing coach Pat Pfingsten to call for her second timeout of the game. Once play resumed, Julie Lenci blasted a big kill from the middle and setter Jennie Witty blocked 6-footer Erika Quigley's tip attempt.
A kill attempt that went wide and a Lenci block of a Kristan Anderson tip as Jennie Witty was yelling, "Watch for the tip," pulled the Devils into a 13-13 tie. They took the lead when freshman Melissa Erickson mistimed her kill, but got enough of the ball to send it fluttering to the floor in the middle of a non-covered zone.
The two teams scratched and clawed to the end, with the visitors managing to even the score at 14-all on a heavy blast by Virginia over the endline. But the Devils' Predovich came through in the end, first stuffing Natalie Rickert with a huge block and then winning a tipping battle at the net with Amber Bergson for match point in the game that ended 16-14.
"This (East) team has improved 100 percent since we played them last on Oct. 3," said Kangas of the Greyhounds. "They served, passed, blocked and covered better. They were ready for us."

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