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Elms takes fight against breast cancer to the court

10/4/2007 - West Side Leader
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By Mike D'Agruma

Elms and Ellet ‘Volley for the Cure’

Our Lady of the Elms High School volleyball coach Jim Noall hugs Sister Marie Hohman as Lady Panthers Cassie Kaczor (No. 5) and Mary Cherveny (No. 11) look on during Volley for the Cure ’07 pregame ceremonies Oct. 1. Both the Elms and Ellet High School took time to honor breast cancer survivors in their communities.
Lady Panther star hitter Emma Nahas (No. 2) hammers home one of her team-high 12 kills during a 21-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-19 loss to Ellet. Nahas also led the Elms with seven digs.
Photos: Mike D’Agruma
WEST AKRON — Never could anyone feel more out of place wearing a color other than pink than at the Our Lady of the Elms High School gymnasium Oct. 1. On that day, the color ran wall-to-wall — from shirts to volleyballs to balloons to even the strawberry-flavored Gatorade — pink, pink, pink and more pink.

The Elms volleyball team wore pink uniforms. The Ellet High School volleyball team wore pink uniforms. The fans wore pink shirts. The Lady Panther’s mascot wore a pink shirt. All were supporting Volley for the Cure ’07.

According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, the purpose of Volley for the Cure is to educate about and increase awareness of breast cancer among high school students, faculty and staff and the school community; and to raise funds for breast cancer research. Each high school in Ohio that plays interscholastic volleyball is challenged to dedicate one home volleyball match to promote breast cancer education, awareness and fund-raising.

With each school in Ohio, the statewide event is billed as “800 teams vs. breast cancer.”

On Oct. 1, the Lady Panthers and Lady Orangemen were two of those teams joining forces by honoring cancer survivors in their communities and demonstrating there’s more to life than winning and losing. Elms Athletic Director Kim Murray said proceeds from the Volley for the Cure event will go to the American Cancer Association through Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

Of course, some winning and losing did take place during the secondary function of the evening — the volleyball match. Behind the strong middle play of Tarah Whatmough (team-high six blocks) and Carmen Rey, and the all-around exceptional performance of outside hitter Emma Nahas (team-high 12 kills and seven digs), the Lady Panthers dominated Ellet in jumping out to an early lead and a 25-21 first game win.

But the team Elms head coach Jim Noall saw control the serve, find holes in Ellet’s backcourt, and keep the Lady Orangemen from finding their star, Nicole Rex, seemed to disappear. The Lady Panthers dropped the remaining three games 19-25.

Serves that were pinpoint in the first game were suddenly too long. Kills first expertly aimed low and away began to be easily dug and set to Rex (game-high 20 kills and seven blocks). First-touch passes stopped finding setters and instead were conservatively volleyed over.

For every superb Nahas or Angela DeSantis kill, it seemed the Elms would make two mistakes. In fact, Ellet never had to score a game-winning point for itself — three unforced Elms errors gave Ellet its final three game wins.

“My girls never seem to quit; they will stand there and they’ll battle,” Noall said. “Our biggest thing is, if we’re going to get beat, let’s get beat by a team that’s better than us, not give them a game.

“I give Ellet all the credit in the world,” he added. “They battled all night and did what they needed to do.”

What Ellet did was force the Elms to play defensively for the majority of the final three games. What Ellet did was find its best offensive weapon in Rex when it needed a big, momentum building point.

“I think what [my] girls have to realize is they have to play within themselves — and that’s the big thing that I encourage them to do,” Noall said.

The Lady Panthers will take part in a tri-meet with Hathaway Brown Academy and Gates Mills Hawken High School at Hathaway Brown Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.

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