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High School Sports

Black River learns valuable lesson in PAC loss to Keystone

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    Keystone's Camryn Smith defends against Black River's Hannah White on Sept. 18.

    STEVE MANHEIM / GAZETTE

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    Black River's Erica Benson (11) defends against Keystone's Taylor Stefan on Sept. 18.

    STEVE MANHEIM / GAZETTE

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    Black River's Olivia Rayk hits over Keystone's Ashley Elliott on Sept. 18.

    STEVE MANHEIM / GAZETTE

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    Keystone's Taylor Sackett (7) hits over Black River's Olivia Rayk on Sept. 18.

    STEVE MANHEIM / GAZETTE

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    Keystone's Ashley Elliott (21) hits over Black River's Megan Owen on Sept. 18.

    STEVE MANHEIM / GAZETTE

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LaGRANGE -- Black River’s volleyball team understands that there is no replacing Morgan Young. The Pirates also know they must learn how to play without her for the rest of the year.

The initial results were somewhat positive on Monday night.

Megan Owen delivered a career-high 15 kills and Erica Benson had 33 assists, but Keystone grinded out a 21-25, 25-18, 25-8, 22-25, 15-10 victory over Black River in a Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division match.

Junior outside hitter Young, who suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament four days earlier, sat on the Pirates’ bench in a metal knee brace as she prepares to undergo reconstructive surgery in late September.

“We didn’t just lose our best hitter in Morgan, we lost a really strong defensive player and a very good server,” Black River coach Courtney Dieter said.

“Everyone is going to have to step up, especially our younger players, but I thought the girls did OK considering we only had one day to work on a new lineup without her.”

Fortunately for the Pirates (5-6, 2-5), All-Gazette setter Benson remains healthy and is the unquestioned leader of their team. The four-year starter made 14 digs and had eight kills while running the offense at her usual high level.

Sophomore outside hitter Owen thrived down the stretch as Benson’s primary weapon, hammering five kills in the fourth as Black River overcame a 20-16 deficit and four more in the decisive fifth.

“Megan really stepped it up and definitely played her hardest for us,” Benson said. “She told me she knew she had to (hit better), and she was a force, especially late in the fourth and fifth.”

The match featured two of the elite all-around players in the PAC in Benson and Wildcats senior setter Amy Sobel, who amassed 33 assists, 15 digs, six aces and five kills.

After Keystone took a 5-2 lead in the fifth, Owen and Benson teamed up on five kills -- Owen had three and Benson two -- to tie it at 8-8. Sobel later provided the biggest point of the match with a kill from the right outside to put the hosts up 12-10.

The victory allowed Keystone (4-7, 4-3) to remain two games behind PAC Stars leader Buckeye. The Wildcats play at the Bucks tonight.

“Erica is a very good player, and it’s always fun to compete against someone at a similar level,” Sobel said. “Our team could have played better at times, but everyone really wanted it and pushed through.”

Senior libero Hannah White made a team-high 23 digs and had three aces for the Pirates, while freshman middle hitter Sydney Simonson shook off a rough start to collect seven kills, 15 service points and three aces. Sophomore outside hitter Olivia Rayk added five kills and two aces.

Taylor Stefan paced the Wildcats with 12 kills and had a match-high seven blocks. Fellow junior Gabby Price had seven of Keystone’s 19 aces.

“We had a little bit of a rough go in the middle, but everyone really stepped up from the fourth game on,” Benson said. “After what happened to Morgan, I believe everyone realizes that we can’t take playing this game for granted. Any point could be the last one of your season, so you have to make the most of it.”

Notes

The teams meet again on Oct. 10, which is Black River’s senior night. …

Keystone also won the junior varsity match 25-16, 25-3.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrianDulik.

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