Maplewood to face Windham in Division IV volleyball district final

CORTLAND – It took all of six rallies before it became evident that the Maplewood Rockets were ready to take care of business.

Facing the second-seeded Ledgemont Redskins, Maplewood stormed to a 14-3 lead in the first game. It signaled the start of an impressive showing as the Rockets prevailed, 3-1, in a semifinal match of the Division IV district volleyball tournament Monday at Lakeview High School.

“We knew we had to come out and play the game of our season,” Rockets coach Toni Kitzmiller said. “We set some goals for ourselves as a team and as individuals, and I think we met our goals. It turned out the way we wanted it to.”

The Rockets (14-10) will play the top-seeded Windham Bombers for the district championship Wednesday at 6 p.m. Windham advanced with a 3-1 win over the fourth-seeded Newbury Black Knights.

Maplewood won by scores of 25-17, 25-15, 23-25 and 25-22. The Rockets had a relatively easy go of it in the first two games and appeared primed for a sweep with a 22-18 lead in the third game. The Redskins, however, scored four straight points and eight of the final nine for the win.

The Rockets opened leads of 7-1 and 12-4 in the fourth game on their way to clinching the match. Senior middle hitter Brooke Dawson, as usual, played a strong net game as she went against Ledgemont standout Jessica Fontana.

“Brooke usually leads our team in hits, and she’s definitely the team leader for us,” Kitzmiller said. “Everyone else did their parts, also. We had a lot of digs in the back row. Darion (Ferry) is a sophomore and she’s playing because someone else was injured. She’s earning her spot. She’s doing really well.”

Ferry brings height to the net as a middle hitter. She added to the difficulty the Redskins had of spiking the ball, registering three blocks.

Dawson had 22 kills and four service aces. Morgan Hansel served 21 points and had 17 digs, and Rebecca Shelton also had 17 digs. Shelton had 24 assists.

Bombers coach Michael Chaffee was wary of the Black Knight because of a regular-season win they had against Windham. Newbury made a prophet of Chaffee with a gutsy effort after losing the first game, 25-18. Newbury won game two, 25-19, but Windham regrouped for a 26-24 win in the third game and a 25-19 win in game four.

“They’re incredibly well-coached,” Chaffee said. “Those are teams that are tough to beat. They had us on the ropes in game three. I think we got tentative a little bit. They were keeping the gas pedal on. When we got the third game I think we relaxed quite a bit. When we’re swinging free, we’re pretty good.”

Junior Dari Heller had a big night, using her strength in producing 27 kills. She added six blocks. Jessica Isler had 12 kills, 37 assists and 10 service aces.

The turning point came after the Black Knights opened an 18-10 lead in the third game. Chaffee called a timeout to settle down the players, and it paid off with seven straight points to tie the score.

“We had kind of a soul-searching timeout,” Chaffee said. “My point to them was, ‘We’re not doing what we did all year.’ When they went on and made a couple plays, they started to believe in themselves again.”