[attach]5395[/attach]The battle for the second spot in the South Region’s east division caught fire Jan. 17 between North Toronto and Lawrence Park.
With Malvern CI undefeated at 6-0 and resting atop the division, North Toronto (3-2) and Lawrence Park (4-2) scramble for that home edge during the playoffs.
Both teams showed no signs of relenting as the match went the full three sets with the Norsemen pulling off the win 2-1 (25-20, 23-25, 15-7).
Post game, North Toronto’s big three shared the secret to their success, and some of the adversity they had to overcome.
“Going into today’s game we had tough competition and I think we really pulled through,” power Nikki Nathanielsz said. “We needed this win because we want to go to playoffs.”
Her teammates middle Zoe Starkman and setter Jacquie Gigan commented on the strength of the Panthers own offence, featuring the finesse of Jenna Adams, playmaker Brooke Burke and the power of Amanda Lee.
“A lot of them were tough, they had a good player on the other team. (Adams) was good and had a lot of hits,” Gigan said of Lawrence Park’s attacks. “It was tough to dig her hits but we pulled through.”
Through the first set Gigan, Nathanielsz and Brianne Zelinsky held strong on defence, slowing down the pace of LP’s attack.
It wasn’t until the second set that Starkman started to become a presence.
“I was battling a couple of injuries so it took me a little while to warm up,” she said. “Then I didn’t want to play in the third set so I subbed out.”
With Zelinsky serving, Starkman kept a presence at the net, helping her charges tie the Panthers at 15.
Still, stealthy play by Adams, who threw North Toronto off-guard with her direction-changing tips aided in a second set win.
Teammate Burke, who set Adams and Lee up on several point-producing rallies, commended the team’s efforts, considering they had limited knowledge of their division rivals.
“We didn’t bring what we should have brought,” Burke said. “We still played well. We’re good defensively. We’re a good hitting team.
“We really didn’t know the team so we really didn’t know what we were expecting,” she added. “(North Toronto) is also a good team so we were evenly matched.”
The focus for last year’s division winners is to reclaim a regional championship like they did in 2010 under the tutelage of coach Jessica Fernandes.
With Erin MacKay as bench boss for the past two seasons, the drive for regional dominance has not stalled.
“We want a place medal, first or second, that’s what we’re aiming for,” Burke said.