SHEFFIELD — Brookside could feel another match slipping away Tuesday night.
After winning the first two sets to take firm control against Keystone, the Cardinals dropped a close third set and were down by five in the fourth.
But in a season of ups and downs, the Cardinals found a way to rise up just in time, fighting their way back into the match and then reeling off the final nine points to complete a 25-18, 25-20, 21-25, 25-18 Patriot Athletic Conference win.
The Cardinals not only gave coach Jenn Larrick her 100th career win, they also handed the Wildcats their first league loss.
“We’ve learned to fight as a team even with missing pieces from last year and a bunch of different lineups,” Brookside’s Lauren Sheehan said. “In the third set we started getting a little nervous, which made us lose. We didn’t have any energy and had to pick each other up.”
It looked like the match was heading to a fifth set with the Wildcats leading 15-10 with the help of some sloppy play by the Cardinals, who had six unforced errors in falling behind.
Then Brookside seemed to flip a switch following a tip-kill by freshman setter Leah Musall, who had 48 assists.
Bailey Kersetter put the Cards back in the lead at 16-15 with six straight points, including a pair of aces, before a Keystone side out tied it at 16.
That’s when Sheehan took control with four kills in the final nine points. Match point came on a Miranda Rothman kill.
In the first two sets, the Cardinals (3-4, 2-3 PAC) put together longer offensive runs to slowly pull away from Keystone (5-2, 4-1).
Tory Aliff and Rothman had the longest service turns, each picking up four straight points in the first half of the opening set as the Cardinals built an 18-11 lead and played side-out volleyball the rest of the way for the win.
Aliff served Brookside back into the lead in the second set, turning a 14-11 deficit into a 17-14 lead as freshman Jenna Rothman picked up four of her team-high 15 kills. She had five kills in the first set.
Sheehan also got untracked in the second set with five of her 15 kills, including a pair coming from the back row in a six-point scoring streak.
“We’ve had a lot of inconsistency this year with lineups and different rotations out there,” Larrick said. “I knew this wasn’t going to be easy and I told them after set two, nothing is going to take the wind out of (Keystone’s) sails.”
She was right.
Keystone got up early in the third set and never trailed as Brienne Guyeska (five kills), Taylor Whitney (four) and Ashley Elliott (two) took control up front, finding holes in the Brookside defense. Guyeska finished with 14 kills, while Elliott had 10 and Whitney seven.
But the Cards showed resiliency down the stretch, something Larrick’s been waiting to see.
“That’s one characteristic I want my team to have, never stepping down to an opponent,” Larrick said. “That’s what I’m trying to build in these guys. Not having those older leaders, my juniors are trying to learn that now.”
Brookside 25-25-21-25, Keystone 18-20-25-18
KILLS: (K) Brienne Guyeska 14, Ashley Elliott 10, Taylor Whitney 7; (B) Jenna Rothman 15, Lauren Sheehan 15, Bailey Kerstetter 10, Miranda Rothman 8
ASSISTS: (B) Leah Musall 48
ACES: (K) Whitney 2; (B) Kerstetter 3, Ava Miller 3, Sheehan 2
BLOCK-KILL: (K) Whitney 2; (B) J. Rothman 3, Musall 2