AMHERST — Avon finally dropped a set, but the Eagles kept rolling with a 21-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-14 Southwestern Conference win over Amherst on Thursday, giving coach Julie Bendzuck her 100th career win and putting them in control in the conference race.
Avon (8-0, 8-0 SWC), ranked ninth in the state in Division I, came into the match perfect, winning each of its first seven matches in straight sets. But the Comets (6-5, 6-2) came out firing on all cylinders, racing out to an 11-6 lead in Game 1.
The Eagles fought back, even taking a 15-14 lead, but a pair of Laken Voss kills and tight defense down the stretch allowed Amherst to pull out the win.
After that, it was all Avon, which rode the hitting of senior Gillian Romanchok and the distribution of senior setter Maddy Jerdonek.
“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be a tough match,” Romanchok said. “We worked all week to prepare for it because we knew they were going to give us their best game and we had to give them our best game as well.”
Bendzuck liked how her team responded to the early adversity, especially on the road.
“This is a gym that you can’t come in and have an off-night,” she said. “We had an off-night, which is OK, but like I told them, we need to learn from it. We had experience and that was an advantage on our side of the net.
“We’ve been in this position before, we’ve played in this gym how many times? We knew they were going to play hard and we were able to chip away and started to figure things out.”
Romanchok ended the match with 11 kills. She battled at the net all match with junior Lauren Pisegna at the net. Pisegna led the Comets with 14 blocks and eight block-kills.
“Gillian is playing really, really well,” Bendzuck said. “As I said earlier in the year, she’s becoming a terminator on the court. She’s playing six rotations for us and we’re able to use her a little bit offensively in the back row.
“She’s just a hard-working kid. She won’t get outworked on this court.”
Amherst coach Laurie Cogan liked how her team played defensively against the bigger, more-experienced Eagles.
“My floor defense was off-the-charts good tonight. Just off the charts,” Cogan said. “That was, and I told them in the locker room, some of the best floor defense of kids that have ever worn the Amherst uniform as a team. They were just stellar tonight.
“They’re a bigger, taller, stronger team but I thought we blocked a lot of balls. That’s a good offense. It might be one of the better offenses we’re going to face all season, and I thought we did an admirable job of touching, blocking and deflecting balls back, making them take multiple swings in order to score on us.”
Jerdonek led Avon with 40 assists while junior Alex Laboy added 29 digs.
The Comets’ young setters — Voss, a freshman, and Kaylin Betancis, a sophomore — led Amherst. Voss ended the match with 13 kills, 20 asssists and 18 digs, while Betancis had a team-leading 14 kills with 15 assists and 13 digs.
Senior libero Audrey McConihe paced the Comets with 37 digs.
“She played outstanding tonight,” Cogan said of McConihe. “This might be her best game of the season. She’s played well all season, this by far was her best game of the season. She was a player tonight.”