AVON LAKE — Chalk Round 1 up to Avon Lake, but make sure to circle Oct. 2 on the calendar — that’s when the Shoregals visit Amherst for Round 2.
In a match that had a late-season-showdown feel, Avon Lake used the play of seniors Christine Bohan, Whitney Craigo and Isabelle Wagner to hold off the Comets for a 25-19, 22-25, 25-23, 25-20 victory in Southwestern Conference play Thursday.
Avon Lake improved to 3-1 in the SWC and overall, while Amherst slipped to 3-1 and 5-3.
“That was a real good early season match,” Shoregals coach Dan Berkheimer said. “You usually see those types of matches at the end of the season, when you’re fighting for a conference championship or you’re playing in the tournament. The last time we played Amherst was in the district championship, and I think they really wanted to come over and win it tonight. It was a fun match.”
Fun because Avon Lake escaped, but the Comets made the defending conference champions work for everything they got.
“It was back and forth all night,” Berjgeuner said, “We got on a run for a little bit, and they would answer. Then they’d go in front, and we’d battle back.
“I think the fans got their money’s worth tonight.”
After splitting the first two games, Amherst had a chance to deliver a huge blow in Game 3. The Comets ran out to a 7-2 lead, only to see the Shoregals rally to tie the set at 14-all. That would be the first of six ties in the game, the last coming at 19-all and forcing the Comets into calling a timeout.
“During that timeout, we talked about what they (Comets) were thinking, and what we should be looking for,” Berkheimer said. “Sometimes you guess right, sometimes you don’t. But the other aspect is that we had to play to win.
“I told the girls to be aggressive and to play the ball. They (Amherst) may have been inspired by the play of their defense, because they played real well. But, I thought our defense played well, too.”
Craigo, Avon Lake’s setter, took matters into her own hands at that point, collecting three kills down the stretch while setting up Wagner for the game winner.
“I think losing (Game 2) was a wake-up call for us,” Craigo said. “We knew that we had to get going and put in some work. We stuck together and played awesome. Our serve receive was really good, and I got some great passes. I was in the box the entire time, and once we got going again, we were fine.”
Amherst coach Laurie Cogan found positives in the loss.
“As I told my players just now, one word, proud,” Cogan said. “I’m very proud of the effort and the fight that they gave. They played the way I expected them to play. You can’t always control the outcome, but there are other things that you can. I think my team came in with the right attitude, and they gave me everything they had tonight.
“Avon Lake has a good team, there’s no doubt about it. They have good size, and they are solid at all six rotation positions. I thought it was two good teams going at it, and the only difference was that they were able to hold their runs longer than we were. That was the difference.”
Bohan sparked the Shoregals in Games 1 and 4 with a kill and three straight serving aces in the first set, helping to turn a slim 18-17 lead into a 22-17 margin. She added some timely hitting in the fourth, filling up the stat sheet with 19 kills, four block kills and seven aces in the match.
“I thought we played really hard, and I loved our energy towards the end,” Bohan said. “We weren’t going to give up, and we just kept pushing through it.
“I think we were upset after we lost Game 2 because we didn’t want to give them any hope that they could win. We wanted to regain the momentum, and we did.”
Craigo finished an error-free setting night with 31 assists to go along with six kills. Wagner chipped in 16 kills and two serving aces.
Tops for the Comets were junior setter Riley Schenk with 41 assists and five kills, while senior Morgan Dziak added 14 kills and Mallory Sliman 11 blocks.
“I thought that this was a real tight contest,” Cogan said. “A few points, here and there at the right time made all the difference to stop our momentum and shift it to the other side. That hurt us. If those things would have come at other times, we may have been able to overcome them.
“Some of the points that we gave up, when we gave them up, turned out to be bigger than I had hoped. Those were the difference.”
Contact John McDermott at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.