Pittsfield volleyball finds rhythm in 5th set to escape Wahconah 3-2

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GILLIAN JONES — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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DALTON — In the race to 15, it pays to have the power.

Pittsfield High volleyball saw a two-set lead vanish in a road match at Wahconah on Monday, forcing a decisive fifth set. The first to 15 took the night, and coach Brian Lawton's Generals had just the power servers to do it.

"The fifth set was all about serving," said Lawton after his team took the final game in dominant fashion, 15-4. "Adam [Quinto] got us two quick points, then Lexi [Sondrini] had I think five straight, and Emma [King] had a little run too. That was the big thing, and it's been one of our big strengths all year."

Pittsfield's set scores were 25-18, 25-18, 23-25, 23-25 and 15-4, as the Generals sweated out a 3-2 win in the Warriors' home gym.

"It's just our serve-receive that we're struggling with," said Wahconah coach Dave Lussier. "They had some hot servers today and they didn't miss a lot. They had some runs that put us behind."

The Generals (7-5, 3-3 Berkshire North) looked like they might be boarding the buses back to PHS early after rolling to a pair of seven-point wins to take a commanding lead. However, as Lawton tried to get his starters some rest, Wahconah (6-6, 2-4) refused to go away. On their annual breast cancer awareness night, the pink-clad Warriors hung tough in a third set that was tied at 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17, before the Generals built out a 21-17 advantage.

The close-out was fought off, though, with Faith Wehner landing an ace, before Kris Rock and Kaylee O'Bryan secured kills to help knot the set up at 23-23. From there, the Warriors wrestled momentum all the way back to force a fourth set.

Then, coach Dave Lussier's squad forced a fifth set.

"I thought for stretches we played even with them," said Lussier. "We're 6-6 with six left. Have to win half of them and we're looking forward to them. See if we can button everything up heading into the postseason."

Wahconah built out a 20-15 lead in the fourth on a Kassidy Krejmas kill, but a Lawton timeout settled things for PHS and senior Marie Butler resumed some hammering hits to help the Generals roar back. A Sondrini tap-in cleared two blockers and tied the two sides at 23-23 once more.

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Wehner had the deadlock-breaking kill, and then Hannah Rose got all of a General outside hit and blocked it in for the 25-23 win.

"The third we kind of settled in too much and stopped communicating. This is a team sport and we need to communicate better," said Butler. "The first couple sets were awesome with that, so that's what I said before the fifth was to just play like we had been, talk and communicate."

After a pair of tight losses, the Generals' opening wins couldn't have seemed further away. However, Lawton had the veteran leadership and power in place to lean on in just that situation.

"I was really proud that after you lose a 25-23 game, you can really have a let-down, but we came back and played real strong in that fifth game," said Lawton.

Senior Adam Quinto opened the set with a pair of booming aces. Emma King then broke a 2-2 tie with a nice hit, bringing Sondrini to service. She racked up three aces and a Quinto-to-Butler kill made it 7-3 when she relinquished possession.

Rose and O'Bryan managed a block for a point, but Quinto skillfully tapped one in to get service back to his side. King landed another ace, before Butler again brought some heat and found open space on the Wahconah side. Elizabeth Sprague added a kill, and then it was Quinto setting up Butler once more for the 14-4 lead, and eventually the set and match.

"I like to be an aggressive player and go for it. I trust in myself and I trust in my teammates," said Butler, who finished a monster night with 20 kills. "My setters were giving me awesome sets and I felt I owed them to swing at them my hardest."

One of those setters, Maggie Burke, had 14 assists and four digs, while Jasmyn Roark-Somersall added four kills for PHS.

For Wahconah, O'Bryan contributed a well-rounded match with 14 assists, 10 kills and 11 digs. Krejmas had eight kills, while Wehner had five aces and nine digs. Libero Meghan Doane added 12 digs.

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


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