Amherst Tops Pittsfield in Western Mass Tourney

By Stephen Sports
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AMHERST, Mass. -- After losing big in he first set on Thursday evening, the Pittsfield volleyball team battled gamely over the next two but could not weather the Amherst Hurricanes, who prevailed, 25-8, 25-14, 25-12, in the first round of the Western Massachusetts Division 2 tournament.
"They're pretty tough," Pittsfield coach Brian Lawton said. "They put a lot of presure on us with their serve. We didn't pass as well as we normally do, so we weren't able to get into our offensive flow at all."
Eleventh-seeded Pittsfield (9-10) managed as many as three points on a serve just once. The majority of the night, the Generals were one-and-done on their serves.
Meanwhile, No. 6 Amherst (12-7) used big service runs by junior Jennifer Joy midway through the second and third sets to break open close sets.
In the second, which started with Pittsfield up by as much as 8-4 after a Dominique Trottier kill, Joy got the ball with her team ahead, 16-11.
She served four straight points to put the 'Canes on the brink of closing out the set.
In the third set, it was 8-8 when Joy got the ball. She proceeded to serve seven straight to open a margin that Amherst never relinquished.
Joy ended up with seven kills, five aces and five blocks. Sophomores Clair Basler-Chang and Teya Nolan had five digs and 24 assists, respectively.
Amherst coach Kacey Schmitt said she was encouraged to see her young squad, which features nine sophomores, react so well to the tournament pressure.
"My kids were really on fire tonight," Schmitt said. "I was really pleased with the lack of unforced errors that we had today. I felt like they were playing within themselves -- playing with a lot of energy but also controlled.
"Sometimes in a playoff game, you can come out too hyped up. You're always a little worried about that your first playoff game. I have a young team. I start three sophomores. I've seen that be a problem in in playoff games before, when you have kids who have never been part of a tournament before. I was pleased with how they stayed very controlled and very within themselves."
Seniors Michelle LaBlanc and Rachael Munch led Pittsfield with three kills apiece. Riley Nichols had nine assists, and Katara Mullett had five digs.
Nichols and Mullett are among nine players who return next year for Pittsfield, which graduates five seniors off this year's squad.
"We've played some really good matches this year," Lawton said. "We just didn't pass well enough to keep that rhythm going.
"I'm proud of the way they played all year long. We had a great season this year. Wish it would have ended better tonight, but really happy with the way they played."
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