Prep volleyball: Waterford plays Eastern tonight

When the Waterford High volleyball team swept Fort Frye Tuesday in Beverly, it was important for two main reasons.

One, it was a big victory over a quality rival opponent, as the Lady Cadets posted a 14-5 record in the regular season and finished second in the Pioneer Valley Conference.

But most importantly, the match against Fort Frye gave Waterford a chance to prepare for tonight’s crucial meeting against Eastern, said Wildcats head coach Jandy Drayer.

“It was good to play them (Tuesday) night,” Drayer said of Fort Frye. “They are probably one of the most Eastern-like teams that we’re gonna play with their size. They have the two big middles. They have very good servers. So this is good for us going into (tonight).”

The Wildcats currently lead the Eagles by a game in the Tri-Valley Conference – Hocking Division standings with just tonight’s game remaining on the regular season slate. Waterford is guaranteed to finish at least as the league’s co-champs, but a win tonight over Eastern will give the ‘Cats the crown outright.

“We don’t want to share,” Drayer said. “We make goals at the beginning of every year. One of the goals they have is to win the league and to beat Eastern, so if they can do it all in one shot, that’d be great.”

Waterford defeated Eastern in five sets on Sept. 19 at the Harry Cooper Annex. Down two games to one, the Wildcats won the final two games by a combined score of 40-19. It was Waterford’s first win over Eastern since 2010, and it ended a 39-game winning streak over conference opponents for Eastern.

Waterford’s team leaders in that contest were Maddy Sury with 15 points, Laura Hill with four aces, Taylor Hilverding with 17 kills and nine blocks, Alyssa Miller with 49 assists and Haley McCutcheon with 17 digs.

Sury, Hill, Hilverding, Miller, McCutcheon and Dani Drayer are the probable starters, with libero Katie Semon also expected to see significant playing time.

Eastern is led by hitters Jordan Parker and Katie Keller. Erin Swatzel, Kelsey Johnson, Sabra Bailey and Maddie Rigsby are the other likely starters for the Eagles.

“The key is gonna be serving and passing,” Coach Drayer said. “We’re not gonna miss any of our serves and we’ve got to be able to pass the ball. No over-passes. We have to limit the amount of free balls that we’re gonna give them, and if we do give them a free ball, we’ve got to keep it deep so that they have to work to get it back to us.”

Drayer expects the Eagles to have revenge on their minds.

“They’re gonna be ready for us,” she said.

“I’m sure they’ve done their homework. It’s gonna be a dandy.”

NOTES: Eastern eliminated Waterford in the Division IV Southeast District final game each of the past two seasons. This year, the two schools would not meet in the tournament until the regional final, should they both get to that point. … Waterford’s next match after tonight will be Thursday, Oct. 17 at home against either Symmes Valley or Miller in the first round of the sectional tournament.