Lenox volleyball team beats South Hadley in four sets to advance to Western Massachusetts Division III semifinals

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LENOX — South Hadley made things interesting Monday night at Lenox. With a myriad of frightening comebacks, the Tigers made three of the night's four sets rather uncomfortable for the host Millionaires.

Tigers are their most ferocious when backed into a corner. However, Millionaires are more often known for simply winning. In the end, it was No. 3 Lenox winning three of those four games to take a 3-1 match victory over No. 6 South Hadley in the Western Massachusetts Division III volleyball tournament.

The Millionaires' 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 25-22 victory sets up a third date against Berkshire County power Lee, the No. 2 seed, in the tournament semifinals. Lenox will meet their neighboring rivals on the Wildcats home court on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Lee survived a five-set scare from another county foe in Wahconah Monday.

The one set won by South Hadley featured an incredible 15-0 run by the visitors that set the gym on edge. However, Lenox never lost focus on the basics and weathered more than a couple storms over the course of their quarterfinal win.

"I think we got away from [our offense] in the third set a little bit, but we pulled through," said senior captain Anna Lynch. "It was pretty crazy, but I'm glad we just stayed steady and played the way we know how to play."

Lenox seemed to have things pretty well in hand through the opening set, climbing ahead 12-4 on back-to-back aces by BomBee Lahart (eight kills). An 8-2 run by the Tigers drew them within 17-14, but two more Lahart aces and a strong kill from Kayanna Black (16 kills) finished off the set in favor of the hosts, 25-17.

That little run by South Hadley served as heavy foreshadowing for the remainder of the night, though. As Black and setter Morgan Levesque worked their magic, the Millionaires were able to pile up points in the second set, but things seemed to stall out late. Tigers coach Corey Koske called a timeout with his team down 23-17 following two Katie Colvin blocks against his big middle Kaylyn Labrecque.

The Tigers responded with a 7-2 run, including four straight while fighting match-point. While a net violation at 24-23 gave the set to Lenox, it was an uneasy feeling on the Millionaires' side after the win. A 3-0 start to Set 3 further accentuated that things weren't right. However, the veteran presence of Lynch brought the hurt with three consecutive aces and appeared to right the ship.

Lenox went ahead 21-9 on another Levesque-to-Black kill and block by Brianna Hazl. Another Koske timeout was called in apparent desperation. The Tigers battled back out of their corner once more, and this time finished the job. South Hadley put together an unbelievable 17-1 run, including a 15-0 segment that brought the traveling fans to their feet.

"I think we were a little bit off. We started our second string players in the third, and obviously when you do that your momentum changes a little bit. We were up, but couldn't seal it," said Lenox coach Bessina Cabe. "I called them to the sidelines and told them I knew they could beat these guys, let's concentrate and go back to our basics like in practice. It worried me a little bit, but we knew what we had to do and the girls executed very well."

A full house remained loud for the fourth, and ultimately final, set, which again featured a near Tigers comeback.

"We just talk it out and get it out of our heads. We work really well as a team, so there is always somebody to get you to snap out of it, and that's what we did tonight," said Colvin. "We can always rely on our outside hitters, they're our strength and they did awesome tonight.'

Levesque (32 assists) got back to her equal-opportunity distributing, doling out assists for kills to Black, LaHart and Riley Burke. Colvin and Hazl were strong at the net and Lynch (13 digs) led a crew of Morgan Hayden (22 digs) and Kasey Vallee (17 digs) in a near impenetrable back row. In turn the Millionaires never trailed and led from 3-2 on in the decisive fourth set. Burke and Hazl combined for a huge block to bring about match point at 24-19.

The Tigers gave one more scare, picking up three straight, but Lahart's drop-in tip resulted in another net violation by South Hadley and Lenox will get a third shot to bring down mighty Lee.

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter or 413-496-6240.


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