Avon made them after getting blown out in the first game of its match against Elyria in sectional play Wednesday at Midview High School. Elyria made them after being stunned by the Eagles in Game 2.
Were the adjustments strategic or mental?
“Maybe it was (mental) on their part,” Elyria coach Jodie Johnson said. “For me, it was the execution.”
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Elyria jumped to a 6-0 lead in the opening game and had little trouble the rest of the way, winning 25-14. Avon got it together in Game 2 for a 25-23 victory, but the Pioneers turned it around over the next two games and beat the Eagles 25-13, 25-20.
The victory put Elyria (11-12) into Tuesday’s district semifinal against No. 1 seed Avon Lake, which beat Midview on Wednesday, 25-10, 25-16, 25-15. Avon ended its season at 15-8.
“I knew Avon had the ability to make adjustments and I knew we would see those adjustments in Game 2,” Johnson said. “We had a lot more errors in the second game, because (Avon) made corrections in their blocking and serving.
“We went back to our original game plan after that and got ourselves back on track.”
At least one Elyria player believed the Pioneers’ setback in the second game was a psychological thing.
“We got a little too excited in Game 2,” outside hitter Emily Mandoke said. “We felt like we couldn’t lose after the first game. After Game 2 we knew we had to stay focused. We got focused and came back.”
“It was a combination of both” Avon coach Jenn Larrick said. “We cleaned up our blocking and defense a little. Elyria had a lot of bad serves in that game, and that helped us because our serve receiving wasn’t so good tonight.”
The Pioneers had nine unforced errors and four bad serves in Game 2, to five errors and one bad serve for the Eagles. Larrick added that she was happy her team was able to put up a good fight in an important match.
“I told the players the loss to Elyria Catholic (Sept. 25, in a showdown for first place in the West Shore Conference) was a learning experience,” Larrick said. “We didn’t handle the pressure of a big match. I told them they’d have to do a better job in the tournament. We didn’t win, but we showed some passion and fight. I was proud of that.”
The Eagles trailed 22-19 in Game 2 before rallying to win. A kill by Liz Zollos tied the score at 23-23 before two Elyria errors gave the game to Avon.
The Pioneers showed the same kind of dominance in the third game that they displayed in the opener. Avon had a couple of leads in Game 4, but a 5-0 run by Elyria to give the Pioneers an 18-15 lead was all that was needed as the Eagles could not recover.
Mandoke and Tyra Darden had 12 kills each for Elyria. Alexis Middlebrooks had 10 kills and four block kills and led the Pioneers with four aces. Kayla Young added seven kills. Haley Looney had 40 assists and shared the lead in digs with Megan Schaefer with 14 each.
Zollos had 14 kills and Brianna Conroy added nine kills for Avon. Madi Matisak was 109-of-110 setting with 33 assists. Erin Cannon had 23 digs and Matisak served three aces.
Whitney Craigo and Avon Lake’s trio of strong hitters — Christine Bohan, Isabelle Wagner and Katie Mihalik — did most of the damage for the Shoregals. Craigo had 26 assists and Bohan, Wagner and Mihalik had 11 kills each.
Dan Berkheimer, the Avon Lake coach, had special praise for Wagner, saying his senior outside hitter saves her best for the tournaments.
“It seems it has been that way in every tournament since her sophomore year,” Berkheimer said. “She steps up her game at Midview. Tonight I saw the girl I usually see at tournament time.”
Avon Lake (18-5) had an easy time with Midview in the first game, jumping to a 13-4 lead. Midview (10-14) hung tough for most of Game 2, but faded in the third game as the Shoregals broke a 3-3 tie and moved to a 20-10 lead.
“It’s hard to play a team with big hitters from all over the court,” Midview coach Jen Shouse said. “Craigo moved the ball well to all the hitters. They kept us guessing.”
The only weak part of the Shoregals’ play was serving. Avon Lake had 11 bad serves.
“I’m still OK with it as long as we have more aces than bad serves,” said Berkheimer, who noted that his team served 12 aces. “I just don’t like it when they come in bunches. That was what happened in Game 3 (six bad serves).”
Lauren Bakaitis served six aces. Bohan, Craigo and Lauren Kollias served two apiece. Kathleen Durisek led Avon Lake with eight digs.
Alex Nilges had six kills and Cassie Haight and Molly Albright had five kills each for the Middies. Meghan Higley was 54-of-54 setting with 14 assists. Ali Stanziano led Midview with eight digs.
Avon Lake and Elyria play at 6 o’clock Tuesday night.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or email@example.com.