STRONGSVILLE — Kacie Evans gave Strongsville all it could handle, but Samantha Csire was too much for Wadsworth to stop in a battle of All-Ohio outside hitters.
Maryland recruit Csire blasted 23 kills and three aces Tuesday as the Mustangs rallied for a 17-25, 25-22, 25-16, 25-13 victory over the Grizzlies in a marquee non-league battle.
Georgia recruit Evans, who amassed a match-high 25 kills, 19 digs and four blocks for Wadsworth, relished the opportunity to play against her fellow AVC club competitor for the initial time.
“Sam Csire is a beast,” Evans said. “I’ve known her since she was 12, and she’s always been a beast. She’s a tough kid and a great player. Obviously, I wish we would have won tonight, but it was a lot of fun for me and our team to go up against her.”
Two-time Gazette MVP Evans was stellar in every aspect as the defending Strongsville Division I District champion Grizzlies opened their season at the site of their greatest triumph of a year ago.
In addition to her kill barrage, the senior made four jaw-dropping stops in the back row on an evening that saw Wadsworth’s team struggle mightily with its defensive coverage.
“We wanted to shut down their serve reception so they couldn’t set Kacie,” said Csire, a 6-foot junior. “We also shifted our defense toward the outside after the first game because Kacie was killing us from there. You can’t stop her, but you have to try to.
“Even though it’s early in the year, it’s huge to win over a team like Wadsworth, especially at home.”
Evans had nine kills in the opener as the Grizzlies ended the game on a 21-11 run, but the Mustangs evened the match as Katie Paltani served the final four points in the second. The key play in the latter was a Csire bomb down the line from 8 feet off the net that put the Mustangs up 24-22.
It was all Strongsville from there, as junior Kimberly Claridge (40 assists) set up Csire and Amy Regrut (career-high 15 kills) on the outside and Sam Fillar (9 kills, 4 blocks) and freshman Morgan Ziegler (8 kills, 5 blocks) in the middle, leaving the Grizzlies dispirited.
Lainey Beavers paced Wadsworth with 26 assists, outside hitter Evelyn Haydu recorded 12 kills and fellow sophomore Becca Dunkle added seven kills and four rejections. Junior middle hitter Erika Palidar had four kills and three blocks.
The Mustangs won the kill battle 61-52 and outblocked their guests 16-15.
“We feel like every time we step on the court, we’ve got the best player out there in Sam Csire,” said Strongsville coach T.R. Harker, whose squad is 2-0. “Take absolutely nothing away from Kacie Evans, who is great — and I’m sure Wadsworth feels the same way — but Sam gives us an opportunity to beat anyone on a given night.”
Though the tournament is nearly two months away, both teams are already looking forward to a possible rematch in the same gym. First, though, each has league title quests to embark on.
“We know what we need to work on because this one just got away from us,” Grizzlies coach Jill Klingbeil said. “What bothered me a little bit was our energy not being there after the second game. We just didn’t find our groove and seemed out of system a lot. You can’t do that against a team as talented as Strongsville.”