Pittsfield Volleyball Rallies for 3-2 Win in Tournament Opener

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- A change of speed was just the ticket for the Pittsfield High volleyball team on Thursday night.
The Generals collectively took a little off their fastball in the third game and came from behind to take a 3-2 win over Holyoke in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 tournament.
With their backs to the wall down 2-0, the Generals shifted from their power game to their finesse attack and prevailed, 14-25, 16-25, 25-19, 15-18, 15-11, to set up a date Tuesday at third-seeded Chicopee in the sectional quarter-finals.
“I told them to do that because [the Knights] were playing deep,” Pittsfield coach Brian Lawton said. “We were hitting balls well at them, but they were playing deep and picking everything up. So we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got room in the middle. Tip a few balls, get them to pull the defense in, and then start hitting harder again when they bring it it.’ It made it a little harder on them, so it was good.”
Senior Brennah Brickle had 35 assists, and Marie Butler and Shakia Green recorded 19 and seven kills, respectively. Green put away match point at the net to win on Florence Afanukoe’s serve, touching off a wild celebration at Moynihan Field House.
A couple of hours earlier, the mood was anything but celebratory as the 11th-seeded Knights took control of the first game with a six-point service run by Rya Antunes, who gave her team an 11-4 lead before relinquishing the serve.
The Generals never recovered in that game. In Game 2, Holyoke again took the lead on Antunes’ serve and then pulled away late with three points on Selena Garcia Rodriguez’ serve to take a 19-10 lead en route to the nine-point win.
“We realized we’re not going to win by outhitting them,” Brickle said. “We’re going to win by outpassing them. So we started getting the pass up to the front where I could reach them and give them a nice set. I was working really hard to give my hitters the set they needed.
“I think the energy just turned. We wanted it. We wanted it. And the other team started getting a little tired, and that just brought us up even more.”
Late in Game 3, Green recorded a kill for a side-out at 17-16. Then she served up a pair of points -- the second on a Katherine Blay-Tandoh kill -- to give Pittsfield a 19-16 lead.
A couple of rotations later, the lead went to five points when Holyoke couldn’t handle a serve from Hannah Wheeler, and the Generals were on top, 23-18. Another service winner, this time from Brickle, ended the game, 25-19, and got the Generals back in the match.
The fourth game was a grind, with neither side able to go up by more than three points until the Generals got back-to-back kills from Butler and Elizabeth Sprague to make it 18-13.
Brickle and Sprague combined for a block two points later to make it 19-14, and Butler served the next three points to give Pittsfield a commanding 22-14 advantage.
A kill by Butler gave Pittsfield a side out and a game point, and an ace by Brickle evened the match and sent it to a Game 5.
Pittsfield took a four-point lead midway through the deciding game, but Holyoke rallied with three straight points to get within 12-10. Alexi Sondrini then ended that run with a kill
Three points later, Green sent the big crowd home happy -- fittingly, with a finesse attack.
“I think we were getting a little frustrated because they play such good defense,” Lawton said of Pittsfield’s early struggles. “We weren’t ready for it. They’re a shorter team, so you think you’re going to just go up and get a bunch of kills. I think we maybe got a little overconfident, and then when they were digging everything, we started to hit some balls out and make some mistakes.
“It can get in your head. Some of the balls they dug out were ridiculous. Some of the hardest hits we had all year, they’re diving with one hand and bringing them up. You can really lose confidence with that, but we stayed with it all night. We never stopped hitting, kept pressure on them and started getting kills.”
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