After suffering a loss to Brecksville in the season and conference opener last month, Avon Lake gained a little sweet revenge Thursday night and, in doing so, reduced the number of teams in the top spot in the Southwestern Conference to two.
The Shoregals (8-2 overall) are tied for first place in the SWC with Amherst at 7-1. The night began with Avon Lake, Amherst and Brecksville in a three-way tie for first.
Avon Lake dominated from start to finish, winning 25-20, 25-18, 25-16. Brecksville, which lost to Amherst on Tuesday night, slipped to 6-2 in the SWC and 11-5 overall.
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Avon Lake coach Dan Berkheimer knew the Shoregals would have to improve their serving and serve receptions if they wanted to turn the tables on the Bees, and they did so in style.
“We missed 15 serves and had 23 receiving errors the first time we played them, and lost in four,” Berkheimer said. “I told my girls that there was no way that we would play that badly again. Tonight we serve-received really well, and I thought that was a key to the match.”
Christine Bohan, the Shoregals’ star middle hitter, was the best of Avon Lake’s servers.
“And, of course, Bohan goes back there and serves nine aces,” Berkheimer said. “I mean, she had that thing going. It was an attack from 30 feet off the net, and they had no answer for that. Christine has just been coming up with that serve bigger and bigger for us.”
Bohan took it to the Brecksville defense from all over the court. She sparked a rally in Game 1, serving five straight points — including three aces — to push a 5-4 lead out to a six-point cushion. Later in the set, she pieced together another five-point spurt, with three more aces, to help put the game away.
Bohan finished the match with 16 points, to go along with nine kills. And when Bohan wasn’t taking center stage, senior Whitney Craigo was taking advantage of Brecksville at the net. Attacking from her setter position, Craigo finished the night with seven kills and 24 assists.
“Last time we played Brecksville, we had a very bad game,” Craigo said. “We weren’t mentally focused, and everyone wasn’t really there. So this time we all decided that we had to be mentally focused and knock them out of the first-place spot.
“We came out tonight ready to go. We had our game plan in our heads and we just followed it the whole time. Our team is really close, kind of like a sisterhood thing. Whenever things go bad, we are right there behind each other to pick it up and go get the next point.”
“Whitney was very focused tonight,” Berkheimer said. “She came with her game face on, and I don’t always see that. And she also ran a very nice offense, mixing it up, running some quicks, running some slides once in a while. She was right on with it. I thought it was her best match of the year so far.”
Brecksville’s only real threat came at the start of Game 2, as the Bees ran out to a 4-0 lead. But a kill and two points from Craigo and three points and an ace from junior Lauren Bakaitis, quickly put the Shoregals back out in front to stay.
“We’re down 4-0, but I didn’t see any panic,” Berkheimer said. “I just saw them say, ‘OK, we have to start playing.’ Defensively, I saw them pick up balls that have dropped in other games. That focus was there tonight for sure.”
Leading the charge defensively was senior libero Kathleen Durisek with 15 digs. Her play drew praise from Berkheimer.
“I have to give Kathleen a lot of respect because I challenged her at practice yesterday and challenged her again tonight, and she responded very well,” he said. “Not only her serve receiving but also with her digs. I’m proud of the way she played.”
Brecksville coach Terri Ehret was equally impressed with the Shoregals.
“They played like they had something to prove tonight,” Ehret said. “I think my girls played hard, and they didn’t give up, but I give Avon Lake all the credit. Their serving game was tough, and that really hurt us.
They have a nice team.”
Contact John McDermott at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.