LEE — As the volleyball season begins to unfold, the contenders are already starting to rise to the top. On Monday, the Lee Wildcats and Lenox Millionaires proved that they'll both be making noise not only in the regular season, but likely come playoff time. However, the Wildcats displayed why the program has won all but one Berkshire County title since 2007 (2010) with a clean 25-18, 25-10, 25-18 sweep of the Millionaires.
"I shook an old-time friend's hand today," Wildcats coach Julia Warner explained. "He told me good game and more importantly, the girls look happy. We are so much of a team and every one of those 14 girls has a role."
However, the previously undefeated Millionaires (4-1) came out swinging as they jumped out to a quick 7-3 lead on the shoulders senior Kayanna Black. She had two aces early and finished with 10 kills and six digs on her resume.
Keep in mind, the hosts (3-1) had some savvy veterans of their own, including Suriana Lee, who helped the Wildcats claw back into the set with some perfectly placed hits.
"The first set was us figuring out out how to position ourselves based on how they were hitting," Lenox coach Bessena Cabe said. "I think we left out a lot of holes and they were able to tip or hit around us."
Suriana Lee, who finished with four kills, 14 assists, eight digs and two aces, powered the Wildcats to a 12-10 lead in the first set, forcing a Millionaire timeout.
"The seniors [Lee and Aliyah Noel] help teach us and they really bring the team together," sophomore Lizzy Brown said.
Brown had a handful of diving saves to keep the ball in play, coupled with a few aces late to help the Wildcats push away and claim the first set. The outside hitter finished with a stuffed stat line that also included nine kills and 10 digs.
"[To go on a late-set run] is really rewarding," Brown said. "It brings up the moment and drives us to keep pushing."
The Wildcats kicked their game into high gear in the second set, where they metaphorically kicked the door down, rushing out to a quick 14-4 lead, before closing out the set to take the 2-0 lead.
"They're learning to look on the other side of the court and understand what is going on over there to be able to keep away from some of their stronger players," Warner said. "Black and Carolina Chassi are some of them, so we tried to keep the ball away from them. I think especially in the second set we did that successfully."
The Millionaires put up a strong third-set showing with the help of Mia Giardina's four kills and eight digs, and Kristin Miller's four kills and four digs, but the hole was too much for Lenox to climb out of.
"We have to be able to adjust," Cabe said. "We have a lot of firepower and I think there were some nerves with the girls. It has been a while since we've played Lee and it is a big rivalry."
Lenox is back on the road on Sept. 23 at Hampden Charter. The Wildcats are also off until the same day when they face Mount Everett, meaning they'll have some time to soak in the win.
"They're a great group of girls who really played together tonight," Warner said. "Tomorrow we can't use the gym so I have a lovely practice planned full of team-building."
Jake Mendel can be reached at email@example.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.