LEAVITTSBURG - Alyse Consiglio watched as her LaBrae Vikings got off to a torrid start in the first game of a Division III sectional semifinal against Pymatuning Valley.
The Vikings were cruising and had all the momentum on their side.
If only they could've held on to it.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Pymatuning Valley’s Megan Stech goes to the net for the kill as LaBrae’s Miranda Dodrill defends the net. The Lakers won, 3-1, in a Division III?sectional semifinal.
Pymatuning Valley stormed back after a Game 1 loss and won the final three sets to oust LaBrae from the postseason.
"Volleyball is all about momentum," said Consiglio, who is stepping down as coach after eight years leading the Vikings. "I told the girls, 'You won big in the first half of the first set, but you let them creep back in, and they've been winning ever since.' And that momentum never came back. We just couldn't grab it and hang on to it."
The equally slow start for the Lakers (14-9), who lost to LaBrae in five sets earlier this season, was nothing new to coach Rob Wludyga. It just wasn't their day (at first).
"Actually, any Monday that we've played this year, we've been pretty bad," he said. "For whatever reason, we started slow again tonight, and finally they started to pick it up and put things together."
The biggest change was the Lakers' passing. After a miserable first game in which they trailed 21-8 before rallying to make it respectable (25-17), PV found a rhythm in Game 2. That was especially important because it allowed the Lakers to utilize the size and strong hitting of Megan Stech (5-foot-10) and Kelsea Brown (5-9). Stech had 17 kills and Brown added seven blocks.
"It's no secret, everything we do runs through them," Wludyga said. "They're both juniors and they've both gotten better as the year's gone on. It's not so much the height, it's the net play altogether. The get blocks, they're able to redirect bad passes and get us some scrappy points. And the setters really gave them good balls to swing at. The rest of our girls did a nice job tonight of filling their roles and keeping the ball alive to put us in those situations."
LaBrae (11-12) certainly didn't go quietly. The Vikings trailed for the majority of Games 2, 3 and 4, but they were never out of any of the sets. They lost, 25-22, in the second set, 25-21 in the third and 25-21 in the fourth. LaBrae battled back in all three games, but it couldn't finish off the comebacks.
"How the match went is kind of the tale of our season," Consiglio said. "We came out really strong, we're dominating and we were able to run our offense the first set. And then we'd dig ourselves a hole and couldn't recover. It was a struggle."
Miranda Dodrill and Ashley Gregory led LaBrae with 11 kills apiece. Paige Losey added 30 assists, while Somer McCoy hit seven aces and two blocks.