COVINGTON TWP. – All Shayne McGrady could do was shake his head.
The opportunities were there, all gift wrapped for the taking. The chance to steal what would have been a ginormous Wyoming Valley Conference victory on the road.
No doubt, North Pocono was a formidable foe. But Coughlin’s biggest dilemma might have been itself.
The Crusaders committed several mental miscues at inopportune times as the Trojans held on for slim wins in the first and second sets before dominating the third en route to a 3-0 victory in a battle of one-loss teams in the league.
Match scores were 25-21, 25-21 and 25-11.
The win puts North Pocono in sole possession of second place behind state-ranked and undefeated Holy Redeemer. More importantly, it keeps the Trojans in the hunt for a second or third seed in the upcoming District 2 Class 2A playoffs, which would keep North Pocono away from the Royals, who appear to be a lock for the top spot.
But don’t talk about possible playoff situations with NP head coach Jud Holdredge. Right now, he’s not listening.
“You have to go one game at a time. If you look down the road, you are going to get beat,” he said. “Every match is a big one. I’ve been around this game for too long. I’ve seen our teams lose when we’ve been overconfident. Right now, it’s about the next match.”
On the other side, all McGrady could do was wonder.
The Coughlin head coach saw almost the exact similar situation against Redeemer last week in a 3-0 loss to Redeemer.
Two close sets where a few corrections of mental mistakes shaves a few points here or there. Then, one period where the doors get booted in.
“We just find ways to lose close games,” McGrady said. “I thought against both Redeemer and Pocono, there was just one game where we got taken to the woodshed. We find ways to get in front of ourselves and trip over our own feet. Don’t take anything away from Pocono because I thought they played well. They tried to do some new things to establish the middle that I haven’t seen this year. We played each other like 10 or 11 times, so we are familiar with each other.”
Make no mistake. The first set was the difference-maker.
Two North Pocono serves harmlessly touched inside the court without a Crusader hand even tipping it. Both times, the defender thought the ball was heading out of play.
Two mental mistakes. But two huge points that mean the world.
“I think it would have been different if we could have pulled out that first set,” McGrady said. “We had a little bit of a carry-over heading into the second set, and we came back. I thought we controlled that first set, but found ways to give away points. I think we only had two missed serves, but it was a matter of when we missed them.”
The second set wasn’t much better. Coughlin handed the Trojans 10 points on service and attack errors, and again, another serve landed inside the line after a back-line defender let to go.
Again, another four-point loss.
“The only thing we are pretty fortunate with is that we have a long gap. We have one week off until our next game with Hazleton,” McGrady said. “We will use that to the best of our abilities, and we’ll get back to the basics. I thought that hurt us because we kind of lacked in the fundamentals. And that’s where North Pocono beat us.”
That’s when the Lackawanna County school started to click.
Setter Matthew Morris found six different attackers in the second set, and outside hitters Cory Rinaldi and Eric Kramer combined for seven kills in the third as the Trojans used a 14-2 run to break open a 7-all tie.
“We got our passes back in that second set, and we kind of took off,” Holdredge said. “You always want to improve, and that’s what it is all about. These kids left everything on the floor.”
Robert Zbierski led Coughlin with seven kills, while Danny Sales had six. Kramer had a match-high 10 kills to pace the Trojans.
Nanticoke 3, Wyoming Valley West 1
Ed Lukowski totaled 49 assists in the Trojans win over the Spartans.
Matt Winters contributed 19 kills to the victory.
Wyoming Valley West was led by 29 assists from Nick Klimchok.
North Pocono 3, Coughlin 0
COU — Robert Zbierski, 7 kills; Danny Sales 6 kills; Sal Purpura 16 assists.
NP — Eric Kramer 10 kills, 2 aces; Cory Rinaldi 7 kills, 2 aces; Matthew Morris 24 assists.
Nanticoke 3, Wyoming Valley West 1
Wyoming Valley West`12`12`25`20
WVW — Mark Burridge 6 service points, 13 kills, 1 block, 12 digs; John Butchko 8 service points, 11 kills, 1 block, 9 digs; Tim Libman 2 service points, 22 digs; Nick Klimchok 2 service points, 29 assists.
NAN — Matt Winters 2 aces, 19 kills, 2 blocks, 2 digs; Ed Lukowski 2 service points, 2 aces, 49 assists, 3 digs; Robert Burke 16 kills, 2 blocks; Jake Bevan 7 kills, 1 assist, 3 blocks, 1 dig.