EATON TWP. — Avon Lake came out of the gate in Thursday’s Division I district championship the way it did in its semifinal match two nights earlier.
The Shoregals jumped on Brunswick for a 13-5 lead. From there, momentum deserted Avon Lake and Brunswick defeated the Shoregals 26-24, 25-21, 29-27 to win the school’s first district title since 1983 and deny Avon Lake a second straight trip to the regional.
“We lost the match in Game 1, not Game 3,” Avon Lake coach Dan Berkheimer said. “It’s momentum, and when momentum shifts it’s hard to get it back. Brunswick took over and we didn’t respond.”
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Defense was primarily responsible for Brunswick’s turnaround. The Blue Devils were superior at serve receptions and passing.
“Their serve receiving was better than I thought it would be,” Berkheimer said. “It kept them in the match. We have an eight-point lead and then their serve receivers began passing nails.”
The loss ended top-seeded Avon Lake’s season at 19-6. Brunswick (18-7) will play in the regional semifinal Thursday night at 6 o’clock against North Royalton.
“We came out focused, but we started making mistakes that were controllable,” Avon Lake setter Whitney Craigo said. “That was what killed us.”
“Our effort was outstanding,” Berkheimer said. “Everyone gave a good effort. We had communication problems, and I don’t know why.”
“I said if we can beat them on defense and serve receiving we have a good shot,” Brunswick coach Mande Pyzik said.
“We worked a lot on serve reception and getting the ball up front fast.”
Paige Elias, Brunswick’s libero, was the top defensive player with 23 digs.
Brunswick went on a 12-4 tear to tie the score at 17-all. Avon Lake had its last lead at 20-17 before the Blue Devils scored five unanswered points. A kill by Lauren Bakaitis tied the score at 24-all before a pair of kills by the Blue Devils gave them the comeback victory.
The score was tied 14-all in Game 2 before the Blue Devils scored four straight points. The Shoregals could get no closer than three points after that.
Game 3 was a wild one. A 7-2 run by Brunswick gave the Devils a 20-17 lead before Avon Lake tied it at 20-all. Brunswick was up 23-21 until two kills by Bakaitis sandwiched a kill by Christine Bohan to put Avon Lake ahead 24-23.
The Blue Devils went ahead 25-24 and never lost the lead. A Brunswick hitting error and kills by Bohan and Katie Mihalik kept Avon Lake alive before a bad serve and a passing error ended the match.
Isabelle Wagner led the Shoregals with 14 kills. Bohan had 12 kills and Mihalik added 10 kills. Craigo had 33 assists and five kills and Kathleen Durisek led Avon Lake with 14 digs.
Gabbie Bulic, a 6-foot-4 middle hitter who will play volleyball at the University of Michigan next year, and freshman Ally Badowski led Brunswick with 14 kills each.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.