Heavy hearts were in the air Sept. 27 in the Woodridge High School gymnasium.

It was charity night in honor of freshman volleyball player Natalie Strongoli, who has been hospitalized with serious health issues since before the school year.

On the court that night, the Bulldogs defeated Portage Trail Conference Metro Division rival Cloverleaf 20-25, 25-18, 25-19, 29-27

"It was a great match," said Woodridge head coach Melinda Hosford. "The crowd really backed us, and the girls fed off that energy. They rallied really hard, wanting to win the match for Natalie."

As usual, senior outside hitters Makayla Sypherd and Breanna Arnett led the way for Woodridge.

Sypherd had 10 kills, three blocks, five aces, three assists and 26 digs, while Arnett had 21 kills, four blocks, six aces and 30 digs.

"Breanna was on fire," Hosford said. "She was firing the team up. She hustled really well and pounded the ball down big time. Makayla's back has been bugging her a little bit, but she fought through it. She covered the floor really well and did a nice job communicating."

Junior defensive specialist Ella Lathem had 15 digs, two kills and an ace.

Junior middle hitter Celina Whitely totaled seven digs, two kills, a block and an assist.

Three JV players - freshman middle hitter Jacierra Arnett, Breanna's sister; freshman defensive specialist Lily Bowman; and sophomore outside/right side hitter Brayden Wigal, did a nice job helping out in the back row.

Woodridge competed in a tri-match Sept. 24 with host Youngstown Boardman and Uniontown Lake, both non-division opponents, beating Boardman 19-25, 25-17, 25-23 and losing to Lake 25-16, 25-9.

Prior to that, the week began Sept. 22 with a 23-25, 25-18, 16-25, 25-18, 15-12 defeat to visiting Streetsboro.

"We were ready to play but fell behind at the very end of the first set," Hosford said. "We lost that set due to serving errors mostly. We fought back in the second set, but then in the third set we got stuck in a serve-receive with one player from Streetsboro getting seven straight service points, and we just couldn't recover. We came back hard in the fourth set, and the fifth set was back and forth, back and forth."

Senior middle hitter Hannah Fitzsimmons had two aces, five digs, four blocks, four kills and an assist.

"Hannah was quick and aggressive at the net. Her serves were better than normal," said the coach.

Junior setter Kaela Folatko had 50 assists, hustling well and making some nice diving plays.

Sypherd had 15 kills and 24 digs. Arnett had 27 kills and 24 digs.

In the win over Boardman, junior defensive specialist Rachel DeMaio had six digs.

Whitely had three kills and two blocks, while Lathem had two blocks.

Hosford said the loss to Lake was a simple matter of exhaustion.

"We got shut down right away," she said. "We had four matches that week leading up to it," she said, "so the girls were pretty much running on empty. We had a lot of missed serves and our defense was slow on its feet. Lake had some tall blockers who shut down our usual hitters."

Woodridge took an 8-9 overall record and a 6-4 PTC Metro mark into a match Sept. 29 at Metro Division rival Field. The Bulldogs traveled to non-division opponent Our Lady of the Elms Oct. 1. However, the results were not available at press time.

Next up for Woodridge is a home match Oct. 4 against division foe Coventry, which is senior night, and a match Oct. 6 at Norton. Both matches start at 7 p.m.

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