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Lady Trojans make C-N earn victory

Forest Park senior middle hitter Mercedes Simmons rises above Carney-Nadeau’s Liana Blahnik as teammate Sydney Honkala looks on during a Skyline Central Conference match on Aug. 29. The Lady Trojans fell 3-1.

CRYSTAL FALLS—Suffice to say, the Forest Park Lady Trojans volleyball team didn’t have much of a chance to ease into its schedule this fall. After starting the campaign at the highly competitive Kingsford Invite, Forest Park was tasked with facing 2018 Division 4 state semifinalist Carney-Nadeau in its first dual match.
    The Wolves arrived in Crystal Falls on Aug. 29 with a squad that returned four of its top players from last year’s 26-4-1 team, including talented hitters Liana Blahnik, Taylor Kedsch and Sandra Bolton.
    Plus, the last time the Lady Trojans faced C-N was in last year’s district where they fell in three sets. So there were reasons why Forest Park could have been on its back foot entering the contest.
    But the Lady Trojans weren’t. Forest Park gave the Wolves a tussle throughout, including winning the first set, before C-N prevailed 21-25, 25-14, 25-18, 25-15 in an entertaining Skyline Central Conference matchup Eddie Chambers Gymnasium.
    Afterward, FP coach Ana Valesano spoke in glowing terms of her team.
    “Overall, I’m just really proud of how they played,” Valesano said. “Last year we ended the season by losing to Carney and that wasn’t a good feeling, so they wanted to come out with fire. We’re competitors and you’re not going to just take games away from us, you’re going to have to work for them.”
    That became apparent in the middle of the first set when the Lady Trojans fought back from a 14-5 deficit with five straight points to climb within four. Junior Elaina Perry fired two of her team-high five aces during that stretch.
    “Eliana has a killer serve,” Valesano said. “That serve is awesome.”
    Eventually, Forest Park completed the comeback. Down 21-18, the Lady Trojans won the final seven points of the set to do something they didn’t do last year – take a set off the Wolves.
    Senior setter Sydney Honkala recorded a push and a tip to go with running tip from Mercedes Simmons and an ace by Caitlyn Bloomburg.
    “Carney is a very good team,” Valesano said. “They’re well rounded, they’re a very seasoned team, they went downstate and they’re good. And we really had to respond to that.”
    The Lady Trojans hung tough again in the second set, trailing just 11-10 before the Wolves showed their power. Kedsch recorded back-to-back kills to spark her team on a seven-point run that put C-N in charge at 18-10. FP scored the next two points, one on a kill by Perry, but Bolton posted a spike kill and a tip kill as the Wolves evened the match.

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