Kirchner, Millionaires Sweep Taconic

By Stephen Sports
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LENOX, Mass. – Kelsey Kirchner provided big early runs in the first and second sets, and the Lenox volleyball team rode that momentum to a three-set win over Taconic on Saturday morning,
Kirchner finished with four aces and four kills in the 25-15, 25-13, 25-11 win as the Millionaires moved back over .500 for the season, running their record to 4-3.
In the first set, she served seven straight points to give her team a 10-1 lead.
In the second, she served six straight to push the margin to 13-6.
She said that the big early margins helped propel the team to victory.
“When we get a lead, we’re having more fun, and when we’re having more fun with it, our energy is so much better,” Kirchner said. “And then when we make mistakes, we’re not as bummed about it. We don’t get in our heads.”
Staying “out of their heads” was a theme for the Millionaires as they turned around for an 11 a.m. match after dropping a four-setter to Pittsfield on Friday night.
“I’m really proud of how the girls played today,” Lenox coach Steve Laurin said. “They played more as a team today. Last night was a little bit rough here and there. But today, they jelled, and they were talking with each other. They were trying to not get into their heads, which is probably the hardest thing in volleyball, when you get into your head and you’re not sure if you can make it out of it.
“But you end up pulling out of it with the aid of your sisters.”
Etta Schnackenberg and Grace Julieano aided their teammates with 12 and seven assists, respectively. Abby Winger was on the receiving end of a lot of those setups, delivering a match-high eight kills.
After Lenox took the commanding first-set lead on Kirchner’s serve, Taconic was able to settle down and cut into the margin with a four-point run that included a couple of aces from Neveah Williams (eight assists, three digs, two kills) and, later, a couple of aces from Ella Stodden (five assists, four digs) to get within five points at 17-12.
But a couple of rotations later, Lenox ran away with the set as Kirchner served five straight, finishing the run with a kill to get to set point at 24-15.
In the second set, she served six straight, including a couple that Taconic could not get back over the net, to get to 13-6, before Taconic coach Lance Fyfe called timeout.
From there, the Thunder settled down, but the damage was done and Lenox slowly pulled away, taking advantage of several Taconic hitting errors to again win the set by double digits.
“We just made way too many mistakes,” Fyfe said. “Our serving was definitely an issue today. We hit a lot of balls out when we were swinging at the net. We just really had a hard time getting any offense going. It’s really hard to swallow, I guess. I’m sure they felt bad on the court. We just really couldn’t pull out of it.”
In the third set, it was just a two-point margin in the middle stages, but a three-point run on Emily Barenski’s serve followed by another run – this time for four points – from Kirchner gave Lenox its first double-digit margin at 18-8.
Anna Nealon finished the match with an ace to get to match point followed by a Kirchner kill set up by Julieano.
Afterward, Laurin said he was not concerned about his team having tired legs with the early start after a night game.
“I think that these girls have such a joy and a love for volleyball that they dream about it,” he said. “I think they played last night, dreamt about it, played in the morning, and they’d be ready to play again tonight if we had to.”
Fyfe, meanwhile, could not say for certain that the short morning bus trip for Taconic’s only a.m. starting time this fall factored into the outcome.
“I joked with the team yesterday at practice,” he said. “I said, ‘Nobody gets to go out partying tonight. We have to get up early in the morning.’ That’s all I’ll say about that. It just wasn’t our day.”
Later, he indicated that Taconic (4-3) has had trouble early in matches all year. In all three of its losses and one of its wins, the Thunder dropped the first set.
“We’ve struggled with getting off to a strong start – and actually at home,” Fyfe said. “We struggle, usually, with our first set, and then they seem to turn it up. So I wasn’t really nervous going into the second set. But it just didn’t happen today.”
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