LAGRANGE — Abbey Bodeker summed up what the tournaments mean for teams like Vermilion — which might not have had the type of regular season they wanted.
“I guess we just win the big ones.”
Bodeker, a sophomore, served up five big points in Game 3, and when junior teammate Mallory Morris’ spike found an open spot on the floor, Vermilion had pulled off one of the first tournament upsets of 2011 by defeating Keystone, 25-19, 25-22, 25-18, in a Division II sectional opener.
The Sailors (8-14) move into Wednesday night’s sectional final against Holy Name. Keystone saw its season come to an end at 15-8.
In the first match of the night, Firelands sent Norton packing with a 25-22, 25-19, 25-18 victory. The Falcons, now 14-9 on the year, face Padua in Wednesday’s first match at 6 pm.
“We knew just how good Keystone is,” Vermilion coach Marty Yonkof said. “We knew they had a good record, that their kids were strong hitters and that they played good defense. This just shows the heart that my kids have. They came out and played hard and really wanted this match.”
The victory was the first for Vermilion in postseason since 2005, and a first for Yonkof — a coaching legend in Lorain County — over Keystone in almost 20 years. Both are facts the Sailors’ coach was excited to point out.
“I’m always nervous,” Yonkof said with a smile. “You don’t get many smiles out of me until there’s 25 (points) on our side. Keystone is a quality team and a quality program. We’re just thrilled to have beaten them.”
And beating them wasn’t easy. After holding the lead for most of Game 1, Vermilion needed a fierce rally in Game 2 to keep the Wildcats off-balance. Keystone jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the second game and seemed to have complete control of things, only to see the Sailors fight their way back to pull even at 15-15.
From that point, the game would see four more ties and two lead changes before the Vermilion regained the momentum and control.
“They (Vermilion) are much better than their record,” Keystone coach Rachael Bailes said. “They play in a strong conference, and have a real good team. Today they played incredibly.
“I was surprised that they were able to get our intensity back down in that second game,” Bailes continued. “Our intensity was huge. We had everyone on the bench jumping up and down, and things were going our way. I don’t really know how we lost it other than to give them credit. They matched our intensity all night long.”
Morris, along with Emily Cunningham and Sydney Virgin, led Vermilion in hitting, while Andrea Dillon and Kate-Lynn Urgo chipped in for the winners. Keystone was paced by Becca Conrad with 13 kills and four blocks, while Nikki Tuttle added six kills and three blocks. Erin Pond collected 24 assists for the Wildcats.
“We didn’t put anything away, we kept all the balls right out where we always have them, we’re ready to practice again tomorrow,” Yonkof said. “This is awesome for theses girls. I am so happy for them.”
Firelands advance to face Padua, ranked No. 15 in Ohio, on Wednesday night at 6 o’clock for a sectional crown.
After being in control and taking Game 1 and Game 2, the Falcons found themselves down 8-0 to start Game 3. But behind the play of junior Maison Mastellone and sophomore Casey Morrissette at the net, Firelands rallied to catch Norton at 16-16.
Mastellone, who collected 16 kills, recorded three to keep the Falcons in front, and Morrissette put the match away with her 16th kill of the match.
“I hadn’t seen Norton, myself, but I sent someone to see them for me,” Firelands coach Diane Price said. “I expected them to be scrappy and to not make things easy for us. It was nice to see our girls actually come out and play tonight.
“When we called that time out at 8-0, I told the girls that they didn’t want to go more than three games with that team. They’re good enough to come all the way back on us. The girls responded and, for the first time in a long time, Firelands won a tournament game. It’s great to have practice tomorrow.”
Despite the slow start in Game 3, Morrissette had faith that her team had things under control.
“We started getting better passing to our setters, and they did a great job setting us up,” Morrissette said. “That’s about all we did (differently). We’re real excited to be moving on.”
The Falcons were led in serving by sophomore Paige O’Connell (15-of-15 with four aces) and in setting by sophomore Amanda Spears (70-of-72 with 35 assists). Morrissette added 11 digs.
“On any given night, anyone can pull off a win in the tournament, so we’re going to be ready on Wednesday night,” Price said. “Padua will be a tough challenge for us, but having practice tomorrow sure beats the alternative. I told the girls before the game that I wasn’t ready to give them up just yet, so I have them for at least a few more nights.”
Contact John McDermott at 440-329-7135 or email@example.com.