Lee volleyball team beats Wahconah in five sets to advance to Western Massachusetts Division III semifinals
LEE — There was no sense of panic in the Lee volleyball team as the Wildcats headed to a fifth set against Wahconah in the Western Massachusetts Division III quarterfinals on Monday. The Lee players remained calm because the Wildcats are used to playing in high-pressure situations. They've played in the last two D-III championship games and their last regular-season match was a five-set win against reigning champion Frontier.
Heading into the fifth against seventh-seeded Wahconah, the Wildcats drew from their experience against Frontier, allowing them to win the set and pull out the 3-2 win.
Lee won the match by set scores of: 25-27, 25-22, 25-10, 20-25 and 15-9. No. 2 Lee will host No. 3 Lenox at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
"We just really needed to put a lot of pressure on the other team," Wildcats sophomore Surianna Lee said. "It's always one set at a time. It doesn't matter if we're down. Every point is like a new set to us. We bring everything back and all we have to do is keep the offense on and keep the pressure on."
The pressure didn't faze the Wildcats, even as Wahconah mounted a late charge. Lee started the fifth on a 6-1 run, capped by Bailey Thomas' kill. The hosts built the lead to 12-3 before Warriors scrapped for one last chance at saving their season. Unforced errors gave Wahconah two straight points. The Warriors added another point before Lee's Jayla Speers punched home a kill after a long volley between the squads. Wahconah's go-to player Emma Parkington did her best to keep hope alive, sending home two spikes in a three-point run, shrinking the lead to four. But a service error led to Surianna Lee's winning kill at the net. Parkington led the Warriors with 16 kills. Francesa Gigliotti had 30 assists and Jess Warren added 44 digs.
"I think our goal the whole day was to talk about 'one point at a time,'" Parkington said. "After the second and third sets we realized [the season] could be over. So in the fourth set, when that started to sink in we really wanted it. We even started to come back in the fifth."
Wahconah showed its heart with a valiant fourth set. A Lydia Morawiec kill put Lee up 16-8. Wahconah answered with a 7-1 run, including several kills at the net by Cassie Tobler. After each point, the Wahconah crowd grew frenzied at the comeback, while the Lee side's cheers grew louder each point closer to a possible win. A couple Lee net violations and Laiken Cornwell-L'Hote kill tied the game at 18. Warren notched an ace and Kelsey LaFreniere added a kill, putting Wahconah up 20-18. Parkington clinched the set with back-to-back kills.
The poise Lee showed late in the game is the same resolve the players had after dropping the first set. Parkington was dominant early, notching seven kills in the first. Lee responded with strong play from Thomas and Ahna Schlaefer. Schlaefer caused fits for Wahconah's defense working opposite Morawiec. Spikes from the left-handed senior were hard for Wahconah's defense to handle, catching the defense off guard and forcing it of position.
Lee passed the ball well throughout the game, preventing the Warriors from keying on in any one player. Schlaefer led the Wildcats with 15 kills and nine aces. Thomas had 10 kills. Morawiec and Speers had eight and seven kills, respectively.
The win sets up a third meeting with the Millionaires. Lee went 2-0 against Lenox in the regular season. Coach John Warner said it's always tough to beat a team three times.
"I would've like to have some unfamiliar teams," Warner said. "I've played these teams already. ... You could very easily have an off night. And you'd hate to have it be the case with both teams that we've now beat twice.
"We know Lenox's weaknesses and we will certainly exploit them to the best of our ability."
Akeem Glaspie can be reached at email@example.com, at @TheAkeemGlaspie on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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