Mathews tops Maplewood in 4 to advance

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Andrea Sparks (11) of Maplewood goes up to block the spike of Mathews’ Sadie Bertock in the Mustangs’ four-set victory in a Division IV sectional match Wednesday at Lakeview.

CORTLAND — With doubt creeping its way in and a Division IV district semifinal match getting away from the Mathews volleyball team, Sadie Bertock picked the perfect time to assert herself.

Riding the wake of Bertock’s wave, the Mustangs righted the ship to down Maplewood, 25-16, 25-12, 20-25, 25-23, in a Division IV sectional bracket final Wednesday at Lakeview High School.

“She was phenomenal tonight,” Mathews coach Carole O’Dell said. “In the last huddle, I called (the team) in and told them they were playing not to lose and they needed to play to win. The switch went off for her. She was full throttle from there.”

Ashtabula St. John bested Chalker, 25-9, 25-16, 25-22, in the other sectional Wednesday.

The third-seeded Mustangs (20-4) play the top-seeded Heralds in a Division IV district semifinal at Lakeview on Monday at 5 p.m. The district championship will be at 6 p.m. next Wednesday.

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Caitlyn Stuart of Chalker spikes the ball at Tori Ray of St. John in the Heralds’ three-set victory in a Division IV sectional championship match on Wednesday at Lakeview.

“If we can hit the ball like we did tonight in the first two games and all cylinders are firing, I think we have more tools and can score more easily (than St. John),” O’Dell said. “They’re a very good defensive team. We juts have to have everybody involved.”

“Maplewood is a team that does a lot of nice things,” St. John coach Stephanie Kubec said prior to the Mustangs’ win over Maplewood. “I don’t think they’ve played to their potential yet. (Mathews) is more experienced.”

With Mathews trailing, 11-6, in the fourth game, Bertock slammed home four kills in a span of six serves to get Mathews within one, 12-11. She later had a kill to put the Mustangs in front, 18-17.

“She’s a sophomore and she’s the only sophomore who sees a lot of playing time,” O’Dell said. “We started working with her in the summer to get her confident and comfortable playing with (the seniors) and being OK with her role. I think she shined tonight. She stepped up and really helped them.”

“I always tell Sadie when she walks in to relax,” senior setter Katarina Schubert said. “She can do it. When she came in, I told she’s got this. She sure did.”

“Her performance was outstanding,” senior hitter Paige Sponsler said. “She came in as a sophomore and had never played varsity before (this season). She’s come a long way.”

After Maria Danko’s kill put the Rockets (8-16) up, 23-22, Alivia Oulton’s kill tied it for Mathews. A Maplewood spike then went wide, and Morgan Williams knocked home a kill, touching off an emotional celebration for the Mustangs.

The Rockets, who have made themselves a thorn in Mathews’ side, were heartbroken at falling short of the upset.

“There’s just a lot of rivalries across the board between Maplewood and Mathews in girls sports,” Maplewood coach Brandy Dunbar said. “It’s unfortunate the way it happened. I told them in the locker room that every team in the state in Division IV will feel what they’re feeling right now with the exception of the state champion.

“Mathews is a good team and they showed that in the first two games. But we also showed them we were a good team, also.”

The Mustangs cruised to take the first two games, 25-16 and 25-12, respectively, as Williams and Sponsler made their presence known. Each had four kills in Game 1 and Sponsler added three more in Game two.

“We were having a ball,” O’Dell said. “We were playing our game. In Games 3 and 4, we allowed (Maplewood) to set the pace.”

Maplewood stole the momentum with a Game three win, 25-20.

“They got the momentum on their side in the third game,” O’Dell said. “Then we had to struggle (to win) the fourth game. Those few points got in their heads. We’ve talked about it all season. They must forget. The game’s not over until somebody reaches 25. We have to go after every point.

“We had doubt. I don’t think we were playing our game or executing the type of game that we’re best at and that’s what we have to do when we’re under pressure.”

“Our setter went down hurt and we had two JV girls (Autumn Hanek and Courtney Hubbard) in at the time,” Dunbar said. “I give them credit. They kept the enthusiasm going. They stepped up and didn’t skip a beat. The rest of the players kept going. They kept positive and didn’t want to give up.”

Danko had four kills as the Rockets tightened the vice on the Mustangs.

“We definitely felt the pressure,” Schubert said. “We knew we had to get out of our heads to pull it off.”

“The pressure started to build,” Sponsler said. “We thought about the Windham game and said we’d been through this before and we pulled it together.”

The Heralds followed the hitting of Cheyanne Bosse and Madyson Paradie. Bosse had 13 kills and six blocks while Paradie added 11 kills.

“We were being aggressive hitting,” Kubec said. “They were back on their heels. We were serving aggressively and hitting aggressively. Anywhere and everywhere is our goal. (Chalker) had a hard time getting their offense set up.”

The Wildcats (11-12) struggled out of the gate.

“What happened was we got here so late, we were not in the right moment from the start,” Chalker coach Val St. Clair said. “We got rolling (in the third game). We have six seniors and they realized this could be their last game. They stepped up and played our game instead of what we’ve been calling backyard volleyball all year. We started to come to life.”

“We had better communication and better court movement,” she said. “We were hitting the ball better. I told them to quit pushing so much. We had a lot of hitting errors in the first game. In the third game, we started hitting well and we started blocking.”