Mount St. Joseph senior Kasey Cannon tosses the ball for a serve. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

To save time and effort, the custodial staff at Mount St. Joseph Academy might consider applying floor wax to the volleyball uniform of Regina Trabosh before home matches.

The senior libero is the Magic’s diva of diving digs, seeming to spend as much time horizontal on the hardwood as she does on her feet. She was up to her usual floor-buffing antics last Friday, saving balls that appeared to be just millimeters from the deck to keep rallies alive for MSJ. The Magic needed those dramatic saves as they edged past visiting Villa Maria 3-2 to nail down a second-place finish in the AACA regular season.

“Regina just plays great – she really covers for us in the back,” said prolific outside hitter Kasey Cannon, also a senior. “Our league is so even this year that you have to fight for everything, so it feels good to get second place.”

Curiously, the volleyball teams in the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies have initiated a four-team league tournament just as the league has discontinued tournaments in most other sports. The Magic, at 7-3, were slated to host number three Merion Mercy in one semifinal, while Villa (5-5) travelled to top seeded St. Basil.

The Mount slipped up early in a league loss at Gwynedd Mercy, but rebounded to win the rematch with the Monarchs as well as sweep Villa Maria and split with Basil’s and Merion.

Within the AACA, each team is familiar with the athletes on opposing squads, a fact that was underscored for Cannon last Thursday.

“They knew me very well,” she said afterwards. “They set the block up right where I like to hit, and they weren’t giving me the line. It was awesome when Jackie [Lohin, another senior] had some kills at the end, because they were setting up the blocks on the outside and they weren’t expecting her to hit.”

The Magic experienced some mid-game slumps in the first couple rounds on Thursday. Villa was a little shaky at the outset and fell behind 10-4, but later the visitors pulled even at 15-all and edged ahead 17-16. The Magic moved in front for good with a 5-0 run that included two unreturned serves by Lohin and a put-back by senior Kelsey Robbins. The Hurricanes stayed close behind, but the Mount sealed a 25-23 win on a put-back by junior reserve Maddy Good.

The hosts gained an 11-5 advantage in game two, but once again lost momentum, committed some errors, and let Villa come back. This time the Magic paid in the end, as the Hurricanes evened up the match with a 25-21 victory.

The visitors did not let the Mount get out to an early lead in game three; in fact, the Magic found themselves in a dire predicament later on, trailing 22-15.

During the second MSJ time-out of the game, Cannon related, “We just said relax, play our game, and focus on one point at a time. We wanted that game because they were sort of on a roll and we needed to stop it.”

A kill by senior Nicki Driscoll gave the serve to sophomore Moira Mulholland, whose first two balls never came back over the net. Two kills by Cannon and a Villa hit out of bounds brought the Mounties back within a point of the leaders, 22-21. Hurricanes left outside Lily Spinler scored a kill off an MSJ block, but that would be the last point of the game for Villa.

Cannon kissed the sideline with a pass to get the ball back for the Mount, and rotated to the service line herself. She knocked across two serves that confounded the ‘Canes, moving the Magic ahead 24-23. Now at the left outside, Driscoll drilled a ball that might have gone out over the baseline, but a VMA player made contact, and the Mounties bagged a 25-23 win that put them up 2-1 in the match.

As if someone had thrown a switch, all the energy in the gym flowed over to Villa Maria in the fourth game. Outside hitter Dana Reigner continued to turn in a strong performance for the visitors, and the Mount had a great deal of trouble returning the serves of Rebecca Bates, who stayed at the back line for 11 straight points. Hits by Robbins and Driscoll gave the Mount a 2-0 lead, but after that the Hurricanes hurtled towards a 25-8 victory, leveling the overall score at 2-2.

Only 15 points are needed to win the fifth game of a match, and the Mount fell behind 3-1 at the outset. Home fans were relieved when the Magic recovered and took a 6-5 lead. Good continued to play well off the bench, and she and Cannon each scored two points, with Lohin adding another.

Good tacked on two more kills, and a serve by Cannon dropped to the right side of the court between two confused ‘Canes for a true ace.

Villa fell behind 12-6, came back to 12-8, but then sent its next serve into the net (this happened fairly often for two teams of this caliber; nerves must have played a part).

A ball hit out over the baseline by the visitors brought up match point for the Magic. A hard drive by Driscoll glanced off a Villa player and continued on to the back of the gym, icing the win for Mount St. Joe.

“They won that fourth game so easily, we just had to put it out of our minds,” Cannon said. “We just wanted to be there at the end.”

A math and science buff who may major in engineering, Cannon committed last month to attend Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va. Ranked 12th in the U.S. for its academic program in a recent survey, W & L competes in NCAA Division III, and on the afternoon that Mount St. Joseph defeated Villa Maria, the Generals’ volleyball team raised its record to 23-2.

“It was always my first choice academically, and I really love Virginia,” Cannon said. “I went down and met the coach and I loved the team, so it’s a perfect fit for me all the way around.”