Niles’ Miranda Baker (7) goes up for one of her 10 blocks against Brandywine Tuesday. The Vikings swept visiting Brandywine 3-0. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

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Niles sweeps rival Brandywine

Published 10:27pm Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Its first taste of home cooking produced another winning recipe Tuesday night for the Niles High School volleyball team.

After playing their first 22 matches away from home, the Lady Vikings returned to friendly confines and overpowered crosstown rival Brandywine, 25-14, 25-14 and 25-12 in a non-conference match that lasted less than an hour.

“Talent wins out, and (Niles) is a very talented team,” said Brandywine coach Carl Greulich. “We knew they we were good, but they’re overpowering for us.”


Niles, which improved to 18-5 overall, dominated the Lady Bobcats from the outset, thanks in no small part to an experienced front line that includes senior Ashley Love, along with juniors Miranda Baker and Kierra Fillwock.

Love, who recently became just the third Niles volleyball player with at least 1,000 kills, added 10 more Tuesday night, seven of which came in the second set.

“The offense is a big part of the game,” Love said, “but without a pass and a good set, it means nothing can happen with the offense. It’s the whole team.”

First-year Niles coach Jenny Nate agreed with her senior standout.

“When we can run our offense, we can put it down, but without our passers in the back we can’t run our offense,” she said. “When we control the game and play our tempo, we win. Our hitters on the front line are unstoppable.”

Senior setter Cortney Shirrell was credited with 26 assists and 21 service points Tuesday, but was also quick to point out the importance of crisp passing in order to rev up the Lady Vikings’ high-octane offense.

“It depends on the pass,” she said. “If my passers are getting it to me, then I’m getting to set it to the hitters and they can run the offense. When they do, they can really shut it down.”

Brandywine’s Alissa Gamble (8) tries to block Niles’ Ashley Love during the Vikings’ 3-0 non-conference victory Tuesday night. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Brandywine stayed close to Niles through the early stages of the first set, before the Lady Vikings reeled off a 10-1 scoring spurt to effectively seal the fate of the Lady Bobcats.

Love was an offensive machine in the second set, but Baker also contributed four of her 10 blocks, along with three kills, to power the Lady Vikings.

Two early blocks and a kill by Baker in the third set staked Niles to a quick 6-1 lead and Niles secured the victory on kills by Love and junior Lashonda Greene.

Junior libero Margaret Hoff had eight digs, while Love chipped in with seven.

“The coverage behind the block has been huge for us,” Nate said. “We are getting to balls now that we weren’t getting to a couple of weeks ago, and that also allows us to run our offense.”

Brandywine got four kills and a match-high 12 digs from senior Mackenzie Shelton. Senior Victoria Knight also had four kills and senior setter Jessica Cooper had 12 assists.

“(Niles is) very experienced, and everyone on the team plays volleyball year-round,” Greulich said. “I have only two athletes who do that.

“I think we’re on-cue, though, and we’re going to get better.”


Niles d. Brandywine 3-0


Assists: Jessica Cooper (Brandywine) 12, Cortney Shirrell (Niles) 26


Kills: Victoria Knight, Mackenzie Shelton (Brandywine) 4, Ashley Love (Niles) 10


Blocks: Brooke Smith, Knight, Cooper (Brandywine) 2, Miranda Baker (Niles) 10


Digs: Shelton (Brandywine) 12, Margaret Hoff (Niles) 8


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