MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets were hoping to make a statement against the Cincinnati Moeller Crusaders on Saturday. Unfortunately, when the match was over, it wasn’t the statement they wanted to make.
The Crusaders made short work of the match, defeating the Jackets in three games, 25-22, 26-24, 25-14. They also went back to the Queen City with three victories in their pocket after sweeping the freshmen and junior varsity matches as well.
“They are a great team,” said Mount Vernon coach Alan Cassell. “They have a great coach and a great program. What sets them apart from a lot of the Central Ohio teams is that a lot of their kids start playing club ball when they are 14 years old. They played well, and exploited some of our weaknesses, things we haven’t worked on yet.”
In the varsity contest, Mount Vernon (7-3) got off to a slow start and Moeller (6-4) took advantage. The Crusaders jumped ahead early and built an eventual eight-point lead, 24-16. The Jackets rallied behind Ben Bennett, and cut the lead to 24-22, but a trade of the serve ended the game with the Jackets on the short end.
“They are a great team, but in the first game, I think we came out a little shell-shocked,” said Mount Vernon junior Carter Cassell. “We weren’t real sure what to expect, but we realized real quick that they are a good team and we had to pick up our level of play. Toward the end (of that game), we started playing.”
Game 2 was much closer, as Moeller never led by more than three points. The Crusaders and Jackets battled back and forth with the Crusaders leading, 3-0, and then 8-5. Mount Vernon got a kill by Chris Ingersol to tie the game at 9, but Moeller managed to move back on top, 13-10, with kills from Kevin Tenkman.
“They set their opposites a lot more than most teams we’ve played,” said coach Cassell. “Most teams chuck the ball outside and they brought it back (inside), which hurt us a little bit. They are just very solid.”
A string of mistakes by the Crusaders quickly changed the flow of the game, however, and put the Jackets on top. A lift call turned possession over to Mount Vernon, and Roger Melick served up five straight points. Dane Owens had back-to-back kills to slow the Jackets, but two kills by Carter Cassell kept up the run.
Moeller managed to retake the lead, 19-18, but the Jackets continued to battle. Both teams traded serves before a pair of kills put the Crusaders up by two. A kill by Ingersol gave Mount Vernon the ball back, however, and a shot out of bounds coupled with a bad dig gave Mount Vernon a game-point situation, 24-23. Moeller called a timeout, and following the pause, looked like a different team. The Crusaders got back-to-back kills of their own to reverse the game-point and a net violation call gave them the 26-24 win.
With a 2-0 lead, Moeller took control of the match in the third game. The Crusaders led early once again and parlayed that into an insurmountable advantage. Mount Vernon managed to trade serves with the Crusaders on several occasion, but could not stop them. Moeller scored the last four points to take the match, 25-14.
“”In all three games, we gave up a little run at the beginning, which dug ourselves a hole,” Carter Cassell said. “Then, in the third game, we dug ourselves an even bigger hole, and it is hard to come back from that. ... I think, all in all, they are a good team and it showed in their stamina. We need to work on that a little bit.”
Carter Cassell led Mount Vernon with 16 kills, 20 assists, four blocks and two digs. Ingersol finished with two kills, 16 assists, two blocks and two digs; Chris Hinger added 11 kills and two blocks; and Bennett had four kills, five blocks and one dig. Chris Omahan pounded four kills and had one dig; Trey Williams made two blocks; Corey Sheller made three digs; Roger Melick had two aces; and Zach Roden added one kill.
Despite the physical loss, coach Cassell believes this is a win for the Mount Vernon program. Getting teams like that of Cincinnati Moeller and Hilliard Darby, whom the Jackets played on Tuesday, to come to Mount Vernon is a major accomplishment.
“This means a lot,” said coach Cassell. “Nobody likes to lose, but to have a team the caliber of Moeller make the three-hour drive to come here and play us, it says a lot. We’ve worked over the last couple of years to build our reputation. Now, we would just like to win one.
“This is why we schedule these matches — to see what we need to work on. We go down to Centerville on Saturday and we are going to play three teams of this caliber, not just one.”
Mount Vernon is back in action on Tuesday, hosting Gahanna-Lincoln on Tuesday at 5 p.m.