LEE -- With an undefeated record but only being seeded third, the Lee High School volleyball team came into their first tournament match Monday night with a chip on its shoulder.
Utilizing a strong serve and dominant front line play, the Wildcats throttled Belchertown 25-16, 25-17, 25-9 in the Western Mass. Division III quarterfinals. With the sweep, the Wildcats advance to the semifinals where they will travel to second-seeded Mahar on Wednesday.
The Wildcats (20-0) grabbed momentum early in the first set, taking eight straight points early on to create a 19-10 advantage. Though the Orioles would regain their composure and cut Lee’s lead to 22-16, the Wildcats secured the set by winning the last three points.
Belchertown Coach Scott Poulin said that his eleventh-seeded Orioles squad made too many mistakes early on and allowed the Lady Wildcats to gain momentum from the get-go.
"We had three missed first serves, got called for five double hits, and blocked it out of bounds three times," he said. "We gave them the first game."
Wildcat Katie Morin, who anchored Lee’s frontline with several key kills in the first and second sets, was happy with her team’s effort.
"Our serve was really on tonight, and we played really well as a team together tonight," she said.
Up two sets, the Wildcats erased any hope of a late Orioles comeback quickly, jumping out to a 13-2 lead and forcing Poulin to call two early timeouts to try to halt Lee’s momentum. But the Wildcats would continue their charge, winning 11 of the final 13 points of the set to seal the deal.
Lee coach John Warner said that, when facing a dangerous team in Belchertown -- who upset No. 6 seed Turners Falls in five sets in the tournament’s opening round on Saturday -- it was important to slam the door as early as possible.
"You never let a team come back after that," he said. "You don’t want the two-set curse to come into play.
"[Belchertown] quite frankly could have beat us if we came in flat and they had their A game. It’s just the way it is when you come into postseason play."
The Wildcats will face a tough test Wednesday against 15-5 Mahar, who swept Easthampton in three sets Monday night.
Warner feels that the two strong teams make for a competitive match.
"They’re a two seed and we’re a three seed, so it will be a good match. It’s really a coin toss at this point."
Poulin, whose Orioles lost all three matches they played versus Mahar this season, feels that the Wildcats have a decent shot of advancing to the finals.
"It’s going to be a big middle versus a big middle," Poulin said. "They’re pretty evenly matched, so I think it’s going to be a good matchup."
Lauren Richardson paced the Wildcats with five kills, three aces and 16 assists, while Maria Melendez added 10 kills and seven assists.