Bridgeport outlasts Barnesville in 5

Photo/PAUL KRAJNYAK BRIDGEPORT'S JAIDA Kusic bumps a ball during Monday's season-opening game against Barnesville inside the John J. Havlicek Gymnasium. The Bulldogs won in five sets.

BRIDGEPORT — While every victory is cherished, some just seem to carry more weight than others.

Such was the case for the Bridgeport volleyball team Monday evening.

The Lady Bulldogs endured a tough 2018 season, but with a veteran cast returning, second-year head coach Kristin Mazgaj came into the new season with high hopes.

Her team delivered on opening night.

After falling in the first set, Bridgeport won three of the final four sets to down invading Barnesville by scores of 16-25, 27-25, 25-22, 21-25 an 16-14.

“It’s great to open a season with a win,” Mazgaj said. “The way we had to earn it makes it even more satisfying.”

The Bulldogs definitely had to earn it. Barnesville — playing its first game under rookie head coach Kimberly Jarrett — took it to Bridgeport early. However, the hosts showed some grit in battling back to make the first set competitive.

“The first set didn’t go well, especially early, but give Barnesville credit because they came out ready to play,” Mazgaj said. “We settled down and put together a strong finish to the first set and even though we lost (the set), it kind of gave our girls confidence that we were able to utilize in the second and third sets.”

All of the remaining sets were back-and-forth affairs with both teams delivering runs and seemingly inching closer to seizing control only to have the other team make a key kill.

“I thought we slacked off a bit on our communication and defense at times throughout the match,” Jarrett said. “We do not play up to our potential when our communication drops off.”

In the fifth set, Bridgeport watched Barnesville knot the game at 14 before closing it out with the final two points.

“The fifth set — like the rest of the match — was really anyone’s game,” Mazgaj said. “Our girls made a few plays when we needed to. I am really proud of them for the resolve that they showed throughout the match.”

A host of Bulldogs contributed largely in the win. Senior Maura Tiber had eight kills, six assists, six aces and 11 points.

Classmate Danielle Bradac added 10 kills, six assists and four blocks. Sierra Simeth was charted for 13 points, 12 assists and seven aces. Senior Jessa Stockwell posted 12 points and two aces.

Senior Jaida Kusic provided five aces and a like number of kills.

“This kind of (win) proves what these girls can do as individuals and as a team,” Mazgaj said. “While we’re happy with the win, we still have a lot of areas where we can improve, too. We look forward to getting back to work and ready for Martins Ferry.”

Barnesville was led by the impressive play of Rylee Stephens, who had 15 kills and 24 points. Morgan Winters added 17 points, while Kinzie Kaplet added nine kills.

“I am proud of my girls’ determination and hopefully we can get a win in our next match,” Jarrett said.

The Bulldogs host Martins Ferry on Wednesday. Barnesville will make its home debut against Buckeye Local the same evening.