AMHERST — Momentum is important in any sport and Avon had it all night long Tuesday in a huge Southwestern Conference volleyball match against Amherst.
The Eagles stunned and swept the previously unbeaten and state-ranked Comets 25-21, 25-14, 26-24 to earn a shot at a share of the league title again.
Amherst (20-1, 16-1 SWC), which is tied for 10th in the state in Division I, won the first meeting at Avon (19-2, 16-1) in a 25-20, 25-17, 25-22 sweep, but the Eagles came in determined to not let than happen again.
Ironically, the same thing happened a year ago when the teams tied for the SWC crown by winning on the other’s court.
Both teams have one conference game left with Amherst at Westlake on Thursday and Avon at home against Berea-Midpark the same night.
“We talked about having an edge when we play,” Avon coach Julie Bendzuck said.
“Sometimes we’re so nice. We talked about being competitive the whole time, playing with like this edge — this competitive fierceness. That’s exactly what our kids did.”
Both teams played with a competitive spirit that provided long volleys and strong defensive efforts, particularly in the first game. Neither team was able to score more than two points on a single rally until Avon put four unanswered together to take an 11-10 lead.
The first game was tied seven times — the last at 19 — before the Eagles finally took control thanks to some uncharacteristic hitting errors by the Comets.
“I’m really impressed with Avon,” Amherst coach Laurie Cogan said. “They came in here, their backs were against the wall and they played like they didn’t have a choice but play well.”
Avon really asserted itself in Game 2, jumping in front 9-4 and controlling the game from there. Katie Koziarz came alive with six kills and a pair of aces to lead the way.
“We’re so happy,” Koziarz said. “We really executed our game plan. Everything was going our way.”
Sydney Stone had 13 kills for Avon and Koziarz 12. Katie Sopko had four block-kills and Koziarz three.
Defensively, both teams were sharp but Avon was just a bit better.
“Our defense has been phenomenal all year,” Bendzuck said. “They’re all upperclassmen except for Alex (Laboy). They’re just hungry kids.”
Senior libero Erin Gardner led the defensive effort with 19 digs but the Eagles weren’t shy about diving around the floor to save a shot and get the ball to junior setter Maddy Jerdonek, who had 41 assists.
“Our defense was unstoppable,” Jerdonek said. “They were back there digging everything up. They were the big reason we came out so strong. We knew confidence was key because the last time we played them they upset us at home. We fought hard and together.”
“They don’t quit,” Bendzuck said. “Nothing hurts them. Nothing fazes them. I told them no ball drops. Nothing drops. You could see it. They were diving all over the place.”
The Eagles trailed 22-19 in the third set before going on a five-point run and holding off one last Amherst surge. The Comets had tied the game at 24 but Gillian Romanchok scored the 25th point with a cross kill. An Amherst hitting error ended the game.
“They executed the game plan,” Bendzuck said. “We minimized our mistakes. We played as a team and I’m not just talking about the kids on the court but the bench — talking, communicating what we were seeing, actively involved in our timeouts — all 14 kids. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
In the first meeting, Amherst had the more effective play at the net. Tuesday, Avon negated that strength. Sarah Weigand had 11 kills and Payton Jackson eight.
“I didn’t think, defensively, we were as aggressive as we needed to be,” Cogan said. “I think when we played them at their site, we caught them by surprise. I don’t think they thought we were as good as we were. I don’t think we got their “A” game over there.
“They were the team that made too many mistakes (at Avon). The mistakes (Tuesday) were on our side of the net and we couldn’t recover.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon 25-25-26, Amherst 21-14-24
Kills: (Av) Sydney Stone 13; (Am) Sarah Weigand 11
Digs: (Av) Erin Gardner 19; (Am) Audrey McConihe 15
Blocks: (Av) Katie Sopko 4; (Am) Tory Small 3
Assists: (Av) Maddie Jerdonek 41; (Am) London Voss 25
Aces: (Av) Katie Koziarz 4; (Am) London Voss, Sarah Wiegand 1