EATON TWP. — Avon knows better than to look ahead when it comes to the Division I sectional tournament at Midview.
The Eagles (20-3) punched their ticket to the district semifinals with a three-set win — 25-15, 25-20, 25-23 — over conference rival Amherst (15-9) Saturday afternoon. Third-seeded Avon will play second seed Magnificat on Tuesday for a chance at the district title on Saturday.
It’s the third time this year that Avon has beaten Amherst.
“It’s so hard to play a team three times, especially since we just played them within the past two weeks,” Avon’s outstanding setter Maddy Jerdonek said. “I don’t know, it’s always a good matchup with them. We enjoy the competition but we knew we had to come out super focused and working hard together.”
Both teams played outstanding defense, picking up balls that appeared down. Both coaches had nothing but praise for their own efforts.
“It’s an effort,” said Avon coach Julie Bendzuck. “We did some drills to really emphasize that and it carried over to the match. It was great to see.”
“Anybody that watched that had to be in awe of the Amherst defense,” said Comets coach Laurie Cogan. “Obviously, Avon plays incredible defense, but Amherst held their own defensively. There were some incredible rallies.”
Avon’s easiest game was the first one, when it jumped in front by scores of 5-2, 13-7 and 17-9 with some good runs. Senior Katie Koziarz led the way with seven kills, including a pair of block-kills. Koziarz finished the day with a team-high 13 kills but she had plenty of help. Seniors Gillian Romanchok and Sydney Stone combined for 20 more kills, with Romanchok getting 12.
“Knowing that we have to play (Amherst) three times a year, it’s always hard for a team,” said Romanchok. “We really had to dig deep within ourselves to come out and play with passion and get out of here in three (sets).”
Amherst wasn’t going to go out without a fight. The Comets played Avon toe-to-toe in Games 2 and 3. In Game 2, the Eagles broke a 14-14 tie with Jerdonek getting a kill and combined block kill with sophomore Jamie Villwock. It didn’t matter to Avon’s all-time set leader that she had to have her knee taped after a nasty scrape on a diving dig.
“My job is not only myself but it’s the people around me,” said Jerdonek, who had 36 assists and a good number of digs. “I can trust the people behind me and in front of me. We know we’ll have to work harder against the people we have face.”
In Game 3, the Comets rallied from an early 12-4 deficit to tie the game at 21. Back-to-back kills by Koziarz gave Avon the lead but sophomore Kaylin Betances tied it at 23 with back-to-back kills of her own. A net violation put Avon at match point and Villwock found the open floor to end the match.
“We’ve been prepping for this,” said senior libero Audrey McConihe, who led Amherst with 17 digs. “There’s been a lot of communication, a lot of heart, a lot of fight.”
“We played hard,” said Cogan. “We made a lot of very uncharacteristic mistakes. (Avon’s) a very good team. They’ve been a good team all summer. They’ve been a good team all fall and they continue to roll. That comeback we had in Set 3, it could have gone either way. We put ourselves in position after being down 0-2 to win Set 3. It says volumes about the heart of my kids.”
“It’s the second time we’ve played (Amherst) in eight days,” said Bendzuck. “I told them in the locker room it would come down to the team that paid attention to details the most. I think our girls executed and did a good job.
Kills: AM—Kaylin Betances 9, AV—Katie Koziarz 13.
Digs: AM—Audrey McConihe 17. AV—Alex Laboy 15.
Blocks: AM—Lauren Pisegna 5, AV—Koziarz 4.
Assists: AM—Laken Voss 14, Betances 10, AV—Maddy Jerdonek 36.
Aces: AM—Audrey McConihe, Betances 1. AV—Katie Sopko 3.