Brookside outlasted the Rockets with three-point wins in the second and third games to take control of the match, before Bay destroyed the Cardinals in the fourth to set up an all-or-nothing Game 5.
That’s when the Cardinals thrived, shaking off the disappointment of Game 4 to put the Rockets away 21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 5-25, 15-7 at Keystone High School.
The win puts the Cardinals in Tuesday’s district semifinal against Wooster Triway, a 25-13, 15-16, 25-12 winner over Rocky River in Thursday’s second game.
Brookside improves to 21-3, while Bay, which defeated the Cardinals two years ago on the same court in a district semifinal, ends its season at 19-4.
“They played hard,” Brookside coach Ted Whitsel said of his team. “Both teams played hard. It was an extremely hard-fought match, and we knew coming in that this was targeted as a match of the night, especially with us going five in the match before.
“I don’t even remember that fourth game. All we did in the huddle was tell them, ‘You’ve got to believe in yourselves and you’ve got to believe in each other.’ I think going into that fourth game, they stopped believing in each other. We know we’re much more talented than that. So we came out and executed in the fifth game.”
The teams traded punches in the first three games as the front lines took turns frustrating each other with fantastic blocks one minute and fantastic kills the next.
“I’m very disappointed for the girls,” Bay coach Tony Tahan said. “I think the Brookside girls just played better than us. That’s why they won. We wanted it just as much as they wanted it. But we did not play like we normally do. We just didn’t play well.
“We should not have been battling back at all. We made so many unforced errors. We have quite a few girls who did not have good games tonight. Brookside is a scrappy team, but our passes really let us down.”
Brookside had 15-9 and 17-13 leads evaporate into a 21-21 tie in the second game. However, the Cardinals forced a sideout on a kill from senior Jeanine Musall, and outscored the Rockets 5-1 to even things up.
“This was an exciting match,” said Musall, who was 22-of-25 hitting with 16 kills and seven blocks. “To beat Bay like this feels really great. We didn’t let our players get down (after the fourth game). We got in the huddle and picked each other up.
“Our blocking was amazing. This was probably the best blocking job we’ve done all year. We worked hard on it in practice, and it actually paid off.”
Brookside took control early in the third game, but Bay cut the lead to 12-11. Bay was never able to claim the lead, although forcing yet another 21-21 tie by never allowing the Cardinals to open up a lead larger than four. However, Shelby Kerstetter forced a sideout with a kill and an ace from Gabby Piwowar, followed by a block from Kady Whitsel sealed the deal and gave Brookside a 2-1 lead.
“We thought we could beat them, but it was tough tonight,” said Kady Whitsel, who was 63-of-64 setting with 26 assists, 19 digs, a team-high 10 service points and an ace. “We had girls crying saying they were hurt, but they were able to step up and played all the way until that fifth game, and we looked good in that fifth game.”
With momentum clearly on Brookside’s side heading into the fourth game, it was Bay that rose to the challenge and dominated the Cardinals. Brookside never took any lead and quickly fell behind 11-3 behind the serving of Rachel Vick and the net play of Bridget Durham.
With the score tied at 5 in the fifth game, it was Brookside that finally got a long run going. Behind the serving of Whitsel, the Cardinals reeled off six unanswered points to take a commanding 11-5 lead. Blocks from Musall and Gabby Woods put the exclamation points on the thrilling match.
Piwowar led Brookside, going 40-of-42 setting with 15 assists and 16 digs, Kerstetter was 25-of-31 with 15 kills and five blocks, while Woods had five blocks.
“Shelby Kerstetter had a great night,” Whitsel said. “Jeanine Musall got five or six critical kills for us during the course of the match that opened (Bay’s) defense up some for us tonight.”
For Bay, Vick had 18 kills, 10 points and two aces, Wilson was 33-of-33 serving with 10 points and three aces, Emily Garrity had 12 digs and 12 saves, while Durham had 10 solo blocks and five assisted blocks.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.