Savage Powers Mounties into State Title Game

By Stephen Sports
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WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The verdict is in: A lineup change for the Mount Greylock volleyball team this fall has been a big hit.
And on Tuesday night, Celina Savage hit the Mounties into the Division 5 State Championship game.
Savage recorded 24 kills and served five aces to lead third-seeded Mount Greylock to a 25-28, 25-22, 21-25, 25-20 win over No. 2 Hopedale at West Springfield High School.
The Mounties move on to the state title game against Western Massachusetts rival Frontier. The top-seeded Redhawks Tuesday came back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a 3-2 win over Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter.
“This is her first season playing outside hitter,” Mount Greylock coach Greg Geyer said of Savage. “She played middle for us last year. She never played outside anywhere but here this year, and now she’s really got it dialed in.”
It was not an easy adjustment, but it was well worth the effort.
“The adjustment was huge,” the junior hitter said. “The timing is completely different. But I feel like it has made me a far more well rounded player. I’m smarter with my shots. I’m smarter with what I can do.
“I can play middle, still. But I feel like on the outside, I get the ball more. I’m able to put it down more. [Charlotte Coody] can set me more. It’s for the better.”
Coody, a sophomore setter, agreed that everyone is better off.
“I’m like, ‘I have the ball. I’m going to go to Celina. I can count her to score, to do something with the ball that will be good for the team,’ “ she said.
Coody said Tuesday that fast starts in each set are a priority for the Mounties, and they came out and took control early in the first set against Hopedale.
Julia DeChaine served the first three points of the match to give Mount Greylock a leg up. The next time Mount Greylock got the serve, Jacqueline Brannan served five points, benefiting from two kills and a block from Savage to build a 9-1 lead.
Hopedale never got closer than five points the rest of the set as Mount Greylock cruised to the biggest margin for either team on the night.
Short service runs by Brannan and Kylie Sweren in the second set helped open a four-point lead at 6-2 on yet another Savage kill. Coody provided a little breathing room with three of her six aces to get the lead to 13-5.
But Hopedale refused to go away.
Even after Coody served three straight points late to get to set point at 24-17, Hopedale clawed back two within two points before it was whistled for a net violation at 24-22 that gave the Mounties the set and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Hopedale (17-4) got off the mat in the third set, grabbing a six-point lead on a five-point service run by Franny Fitch to make it 13-7.
Mount Greylock answered when Emma Gray served four points, including a pair of aces, to tie the set at 18-18.
Hopedale’s Riley Thompson got a side out with an offspeed hit, and then the teams traded points until another run by Fitch closed out the set to make it 2-1, Mounties.
“I feel like the main problem that happened in the third set was lack of moving feet with serve receive,” Savage said.  “The less we move, the more we get burned. I feel like we went into the fourth set and said, ‘We have to come back, and we have to come back now.’ “
Savage got the serve with her team ahead, 4-3, and she started her run with an ace off the net, the first of three aces in a four-point run to open an early 8-3 lead.
Hopedale got as close as two points the rest of the way, but a three-point run by Coody late opened a 22-16 lead, and a couple of side outs later, DeChaine closed out the match – first on a Sweren kill to set up match point and then on a vicious swing by Savage with an assist from Coody to end it.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” Geyer said. “They’ve been working really, really hard. We’ve been together a couple of years, but it’s still a young team. And to make the finals this year is really, really exciting.”
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