AMHERST — Losing a quality player like Erica Turner is certainly not something her teammates and coaches wanted to see. Yet when the team uses the loss to motivate themselves and come from behind and win, some of the sting is taken out of the injury.
Turner suffered what appeared to be a seriously sprained ankle in the first game of Amherst’s match against first-place Brecksville on Tuesday. The Comets were losing at the time, 21-15, but responded by dominating Brecksville — ranked No. 16 in Ohio in Division I — for a 25-22 victory.
Amherst continued its mastery in the second and third games, winning 25-18 and 25-17. The victory put the Comets in a three-way tie for first place in the Southwestern Conference, with Avon Lake and Brecksville. Amherst is 11-3 and 6-1 in the SWC.
“I’ve coached a lot of teams that have had a good player go down and have played better after that,” Amherst coach Laurie Cogan said. “Good teams will step up, and the other team just assumes that the substitute won’t be as good.”
The substitute was as good. Ashley Makruski, a 5-foot-11 freshman, came up huge in the late going of Game 1.
The Comets scored the game’s final eight points, with Makruski getting three kills in that run.
Makruski had a kill to force a 22-22 tie and the kill that gave Amherst the lead.
“Boy, did Ashley Makruski ever step up to the plate,” Cogan said. “She had kills. She had blocks. She threw Brecksville out of its system. They didn’t know how to handle her. She was just a beast down the stretch in the first game.”
Makruski’s heroics were courtesy of a defense that was drum-tight late in the opening game — led by seniors Hannah Brosky (22 digs) and Andria Velez (14 digs).
“I’m more than overjoyed at how we played,” Brosky said. “We worked hard on defense this week in practice. We needed to improve our serve receiving, and we did.
“We looked at each other when (Turner) was hurt and said we aren’t going to give up on this game. We were going to fight for every point. It was an amazing comeback.”
Junior setter Riley Schenk had an outstanding match. Schenk was 80-for-80 setting with 20 assists. Schenk also had 11 kills, mostly on dumps to unguarded corners or empty spots on the floor the Bees couldn’t cover quickly enough.
“Schenk’s offense was as important as any hitter on the front row,” Cogan said. “She kept them off-balance. They couldn’t zone in on our hitters because they had to watch out for what Riley was doing.”
Brecksville (11-4, 6-1) led 10-8 in Game 2 before Amherst went on a 14-4 run. The Comets opened a lead of 11-2 in Game 3, with Brosky serving seven points. The Bees came as close as five points at 19-14 and 21-16 before being put away.
Mallory Sliman led Amherst with 12 kills and four block kills. Makruski finished with 10 kills and two block kills. Brosky served 10 points with four aces, three of them in the final game.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.