AMHERST — When a team has an opponent like Amherst on the ropes, it’s no time to concede a round and hope to finish the fight in the next one.
“I did not want to go four (games) with them,” Avon Lake coach Dan Berkheimer said after his Shoregals defeated Amherst 25-17, 25-12, 25-23 in a Southwestern Conference volleyball match Tuesday.
“I was glad my team hung together and beat them in three games,” Berkheimer said. “Amherst went five last week with Westlake after winning the first two. They have the tradition.”
One of Amherst’s traditions is defeating Avon Lake. Neither coach could remember the last time the Shoregals beat the Comets.
“I can’t say,” Berkheimer said. “I’m thinking 2000 sounds right.”
“I’m sure it hasn’t been since the 1990s,” said Laurie Cogan, the Amherst coach. “I don’t think anyone other than Olmsted Falls and Brecksville (in the SWC) has beaten us in many years.”
That all ended Tuesday as Avon Lake (3-0, 3-0 SWC) built commanding leads in the first two games and rallied to win a see-saw Game 3 after being behind 22-21.
The Shoregals trailed only at 1-0 in the opening game and gradually built the lead to 23-13. Avon Lake went on a 15-4 run in Game 2 to take a 19-9 lead and coast to victory.
The wealth was spread around. Christine Bohan led the Shoregals with 10 kills, five in Game 1. Katie Mihalik added nine kills and three block kills, with six kills coming in the final game. Isabelle Wagner had five of her eight kills in Game 3. Danielle Donelan had six kills in spite of suffering a wrist injury in the second game.
“It all starts with the passing,” Berkheimer said. “Heather Smith (18 digs) did an outstanding job with passing and both setters (Whitney Craigo and Taylor Leube) did a great job of mixing it up and keeping (Amherst) guessing.”
Craigo led the Shoregals with 25 assists.
“Whitney and Katie worked very well together,” Berkheimer said. “Katie is only a sophomore but has a wonderful swing. She was on varsity last year, so Whitney was setting to her as a freshman.”
The Shoregals also had eight aces to just one for Amherst (4-3, 2-1 SWC). Lauren Bakaitis served three aces.
“We’re all coming together,” Smith said. “We’re getting closer as a team and that makes us play better. We get off our passes and then we can run our offense. This (win) was huge.”
“They have a nice team,” Cogan said of Avon Lake. “They’re tall and they create problems for you in the back row. They were ready to play.
“A lot of mistakes we made was from a lack of focus,” Cogan added. “They got in our heads and the girls lost some concentration. They got a little frustrated and they didn’t know how to handle the frustration.”
Cogan added that Game 3 was more indicative of the way her team can play.
“I’m happy with the way they finished,” she said. “I’m just not happy with the way we started.”
Avon Lake opened a 12-7 lead in the first game. Amherst closed to within two before the Shoregals went on a run of five straight points and outscored Amherst 11-3. Game 2 was similar, with the Comets going up 5-4 before Avon Lake started to dominate. The Shoregals served five aces to none for Amherst and had five block kills to one for the Comets in the second game.
In Game 3, the Shoregals were ahead 15-10 before Amherst rallied to take a 17-16 lead on Maria Concheck’s kill. The teams traded points until a bad serve by Amherst and a kill by Mihalik gave the Shoregals a 23-22 lead. The game was tied for the last time on a bad serve by Avon Lake. Isabelle Wagner’s two kills gave the Shoregals the victory.
Concheck and Mallory Sliman led Amherst with seven kills each. Concheck had four kills and three block kills in Game 3 and finished with 10 blocks for the match. Riley Schenk was 70-of-70 setting with 23 assists. Ally Lewandowski was high for the Comets with 14 digs.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.