Bracket busting

LaBrae upsets Brookfield

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Amanda Reppart (14) of LaBrae taps the ball over the net during the Vikings’ five-set victory over Brookfield Tuesday night in the Division III tournament at LaBrae. The Vikings advance to play top-seeded Newton Falls on Thursday.

LEAVITTSBURG — The ninth-seeded LaBrae Vikings shocked sixth-seeded Brookfield Tuesday night in the first round of the Division III volleyball tournament at LaBrae.

The Vikings won the fifth and deciding set, 16-14, to advance to a sectional bracket final back on their home floor against top-seeded Newton Falls, Thursday at 7 p.m. The Tigers swept Mineral Ridge in three games in Tuesday’s second contest.

“(The intesity) was very high and they did a fabulous job and I’m so proud of them,” LaBrae coach Heather Sankey said of her team’s fifth set performance. “We did a really good job when we were in the huddle. We stayed focused and we blocked out what was going on in the gym and we concentrated on (our game plan). At the end of the season, our team chemistry is really where it needs to be.”

In the opening set, Brookfield got off to a quick start but then started making several unforced errors. LaBrae tied the game at 14 apiece, only for Brookfield to go up 23-19. However, with LaBrae on the ropes, Brookfield was unable to close the set out, as the Vikings took it, 27-25.

In the second set, however, Brookfield took full control, as they got out to a 9-1 lead and cruised to the easy 25-10 victory.

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Members of the LaBrae volleyball team celebrate their victory Tuesday over Brookfield.

“We played on skill alone,” Brookfield coach Bob Calvin said of the first set. “We need to learn to play on heart. The first game, we did nothing, heart-wise. The second game, we came out and played with skill and heart, and it matters.”

The third set was much like the first set, as the Vikings fell behind 9-3, only to storm back and win the set, 25-22. Brookfield was able to force a fifth set after taking the fourth set, 25-18.

In the final set, LaBrae (11-12) quickly went up 5-1, but the Warriors (15-8) rallied to tie it at 14-all. LaBrae finally sealed the deal by scoring the final two points of the match. It was the first time the Viking seniors have ever made it past the first round in their careers.

“We’ve worked really hard this past week, we knew we wanted to come out here and beat them (Brookfield),” LaBrae senior Amanda Reppart said. “We got gypped last game (we played them), so we were out for it and we were determined to get that win, no matter what.”

Newton Falls pulled away from Mineral Ridge, thought the Rams kept the Tigers on their toes the entire match.

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Izzy Kline of Newton Falls prepares to serve in the Tigers’ win over Mineral Ridge on Tuesday.

In the first set, a quick Tiger lead evaporated as Mineral Ridge rallied and closed the gap to 12-9. But the Tigers woke up and ran away from the Rams, outscoring them 13-6 thereafter, to win it 25-15.

The second and third sets were much the same, as the two teams were deadlocked at 16, before Newton Falls pulled away to win the second set, 25-18. In the third and final set, the Rams tied the game at eight, but once again, the Tigers took control and won the set, 25-15.

“I think we started off a little tense, I thought we were a little nervous to start the game tonight,” Newton Falls coach Kristina Baker said. “After we got out of that and got into playing a little bit more (we were fine).”

As for Mineral Ridge (7-15) their season ends, but not after fighting the Tigers much harder then anyone might have expected. In fact, Rams coach Joey DeLisio believes that her team was underestimated by the one-seeded Tigers.

“Yeah, that’s the story of Mineral Ridge in any sport, especially volleyball,” DeLisio said. “I’ve always coached these girls to be fighters and they’re good girls, they want this, they’re passionate about volleyball. That’s what makes me want to come to practice and coach these girls. I’m very proud to be the Mineral Ridge volleyball coach after that game.”

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Anna Bodo of Mineral Ridge prepares to serve in the Rams’ loss to Newton Falls on Tuesday.

Newton Falls (22-1) already has beaten All-American Conference Blue Tier opponent LaBrae twice this season, but according to Baker, the next game is all that matters.

“I told the girls, ‘Tournaments are different. It’s a brand new season, what happened earlier doesn’t matter, it’s what happens now,’ “ Baker said.

As for Sankey, her Vikings have a chance to pull off the upset if they can keep their focus.

“Sometimes you’ve got to stop worrying about the game, it’s about doing our fundamentals right. The score of the game will come when we start doing our fundamentals.”

Tribune Chronicle / Eric Murray Olivia Vogal (26) of Brookfield spikes the ball during the Warriors' loss to LaBrae on Tuesday.