PITTSFIELD — For the first time in a long time, the gymnasium at Taconic High School was deafening. And for the first time in an even longer time, Taconic volleyball defeated rival Pittsfield High.
“We’ve been improving. A lot ups and downs, but they put it together tonight for sure,” said Taconic coach Lance Fyfe after his squad defeated PHS 3-0 in front of a big home crowd. “It was impressive. Even in the third set with PHS making a good comeback, they hung on and they took care of business. That was exciting, it was awesome.
“That’s how I know these guys can play, and I think we were able to keep our focus for three games straight. It was really impressive.”
Taconic took the opening set 25-16, then the second 25-5 and third 25-23.
Pittsfield had an early 4-3 lead in the opener, before the hosts went on an 8-0 run to go in front 11-4. Taconic never looked back.
“We played really well. This is the best we’ve played in a long time. We were really a team tonight,” said Taconic senior Jenna Gustafson. “This is the first time we’ve beaten them in years. This is pretty big, especially in three sets. This was a big game for us either way, there were a lot of nerves, but we were really excited and glad to be here.”
Pittsfield actually led 2-1 in the second set, as well, and got service back trailing 9-4, but Nyashia Daniels had a monster block on an Ava Brazeau hit and things got away from the Generals in a hurry. Later, PHS couldn’t return Alanna Petricca’s serve cleanly, and Taconic was suddenly in front 19-4. It was a 25-5 win in the second set, capped by a Natalia Dos Santos ace for set-point, that put the Generals on their heels.
Coach Brennah Brickle’s PHS crew wasn’t going to go away quietly in a cross-town rivalry match, though. Even down 7-3 in the third set, the Generals gave Taconic all it could handle. A Maggie Burke ace knotted things back up at 10-10 and Brigette Marcil had a clutch, deep backwards bump that caught net for an 11-10 lead and forced a Taconic timeout.
The PHS lead reached 13-10, but eventually Brenna McNeice blasted in a serve that the visitors couldn’t respond to and it was 13-all. The teams traded slim leads for a stretch, with the Generals inching in front 17-15 before a strong service point by Payton Ramella locked it back up at 17s. The teams were tied at 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23, building the crowd into a frenzy as potential match-point neared.
“I was really nervous all day. I knew there’d be a lot of people here because people were posting about it, and I know PHS has a great fan section. We just used it as motivation,” said McNeice. “The third set was nervous because it was so close, but I knew that if we played how we could, how we played the first two, we could win. I liked the energy a lot tonight.”
Taconic libero Ciana Bennet dug a PHS serve with the set tied at 23, and McNeice set up Gustafson, who right-fisted a kill through two blockers for the penultimate point.
Service returned to Gustafson, who overhanded her hit onto Hailey Rumlow. Rumlow dug it out, but Taconic had the offense set up. The first Taconic hit directed to McNeice on the right of the net. She set a beauty to the middle, where Daniels rose and delivered a near-fatal blow. Burke had a sweet dig back over the net, but Daniels was already rising to fire again. This time, her hit couldn’t be returned and the Taconic side went ballistic, 25-23.
“Me and Brenna operate with one of two things. Tonight we were trying all 2’s, because they were double-blocking me,” said Daniels. “We always like it high and fast, that’s the go plan. “
“We’re kind of a duo,” McNeice added. “She’s such a good hitter, and I have complete faith in her that anything I set to her is going to be a good hit.”
McNeice finished with 11 digs, two kills, nine assists and 2 aces, while Gustafson led the way with six kills and three aces. Daniels had three kills and two blocks. Bennett had nine digs, while Dos Santos had four. Ramella had three aces.
“I was getting really anxious, but excited at the same time because I could see how hard we were all working to the finish,” said Daniels. “I expected a really good game, win or lose. We just wanted to keep the energy up.”