Amherst Comets fizzle out; Avon Lake Shoregals headed to Grafton District Final

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Amherst’s Ashley Markruski, right, tips the ball away from Brunswick’s Gabbie Bulic, left, and Megan Anderson in the second game of Tuesday night’s Division I District Semifinal match.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Brunswick's Gabbie Bulic, center, blasts the ball past Amherst's Riley Schenk, left, and Brooke Wallace in the second game of Tuesday night's Division I District Semifinal match.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Brunswick's Ally Badowski, left, blocks Amherst's Mallory Sliman's shot back at her in the first game of Tuesday night's Division I District Semifinal match.

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Brunswick's Ally Badowski, left, its the ball past Amherst's Mallory Sliman in the second game of Tuesday night's Division I District Semifinal match.

EATON TWP. — Amherst had no answer for Brunswick’s combination of net control and impenetrable defense as the Comets’ season ended in a stunning 25-17, 25-15, 25-22 loss to the Blue Devils in the Division I Grafton District Semifinal on Tuesday night.

After Southwestern Conference rival Avon Lake clinched a berth into Thursday night’s district final earlier in the night, Amherst was poised to reach their fourth-straight final and set up a rematch of last year’s championship match. The Blue Devils and big 6-foot-4 senior middle hitter Gabbie Bulic had other plans in mind.

Brunswick (17-7) controlled the net all night long and did not allow Amherst (19-5) to have many easy kills thanks to fantastic digs throughout the back line, led by libero Paige Elias’ 16 digs.

“Our serve receive was borderline perfect,” Brunswick coach Mande Pyzik said. “That’s something that’s really important to us, making sure our serve receive is good and we don’t get aced.

“Defense was very solid as well. They didn’t allow anything to hit the ground.”

Motivated by last year’s loss to Amherst, the Blue Devils came out firing powered by Bulic’s 17 kills and eight blocks. Even when Bulic was on the bench, her sub, freshman Ally Badowski, was just as effective with 17 kills of her own.

“(Ally) was as intense as everyone else,” Pyzik said. “You would have thought she was just like the seniors.”

Amherst had no answer for the powerful Brunswick attack and its strong defense that allowed just one service ace from the Comets all night long.

“Our offense was out of sync all night long,” Amherst coach Laurie Cogan said. “We only have so many kids that we can put at the net to give us opportunities to score. And tonight, those kids just had more hitting errors than they’ve had all season.”

After dropping the first two games, Amherst trailed Brunswick just 22-21 in the third game before Brunswick called its only timeout of the match. Badowski responded with kills on two of Brunswick’s final three points to complete the sweep.

Amherst’s Riley Schenk led the Comets with 25 assists and 10 digs.

“We just did not have the emotion that I believe has been one of our strengths all season,” Cogan said. “We lacked emotion and I didn’t feel we were as competitive as we needed to be. Brunswick is a good team. I will take nothing away from them. I just wish that we would have played a bit more competitive against them.”

Avon Lake 3, Elyria 0: Avon Lake opened Tuesday’s District Semifinal doubleheader with an emphatic statement in defeating the Elyria Pioneers 25-10, 25-15, 25-17 to advance to their second-straight district final.

The Shoregals (19-5) were overpowering right from the start with the help of both strong net play and a very good service game, as they aced the Pioneers (11-13) 12 times, seven of which came in the final game. Christine Bohan led the Shoregals’ strong serving with four aces.

“Bohan really found her serve at the end there,” Avon Lake coach Dan Berkheimer said. “She was struggling a little bit, but then she found it. When she’s got that topspin going, everybody has trouble.”

Avon Lake took advantage of the Pioneers’ self-inflicted wounds including missed passes or kills that went too far, and the Shoregals continued to execute nearly flawlessly through most of the match.

“It’s having our girls being a little more disciplined,” Elyria coach Jodie Johnson said. “I thought tonight, we had a lot of breakdowns with our discipline.”

The Pioneers’ strong block led by Alexis Middlebrooks, who had only two blocks, struggled to keep up with the versatile hitting of the Shoregals as multiple players delivered powerful kills throughout the match.

“We weren’t able to control first ball,” Johnson said. “We were not able to serve receive, and we were not able to get in the best position to play defense. When you have those two breakdowns, we weren’t able to do what we needed to do tonight, by far.”

Berkheimer felt his team’s offense played extremely efficiently, not having a passing error through the first two games. Senior setter Whitney Craigo’s 30 assists played a huge role in the Shoregals’ potent attack.

“I’ve been telling them ‘We’ve got to play well in serve receive and serve, and we’re going to be in good shape here,’” Berkheimer said. “We have a lot of great hitters. And I think Katie Mihalik is starting to look more like 100 percent. She did an awesome job, the best she’s played all year by far.”

Mihalik had a pair of block kills and senior captain Isabelle Wagner had 10 kills, including a kill on the final point, to help send the Shoregals to their second-straight district final.

The winner between Avon Lake and Brunswick on Thursday night will head to Brecksville-Broadview Heights on Nov. 1 in the Norwalk Regional Semifinal against the winner of North Royalton and Strongsville.

Avon Lake 3, Elyria 0

Division I Grafton District Semifinal

Elyria (11-13) 10 15 17

Avon Lake (19-5) 25 25 25

Stat Leaders

HITTING — AL: Isabelle Wagner 10 kills; SETTING — E: Haley Looney 18 assists; AL: Whitney Craigo 30 assists; SERVING — E: Tyra Darden 2 aces; AL: Christine Bohan 4 aces; DIGS — E: Emily Mandoke 9; AL: Kathleen Durisek 9; BLOCKS — E: Alexis Middlebrooks 2; AL: Katie Mihalik 2 block kills.

Brunswick 3, Amherst 0

Division I Grafton District Semifinal

Brunswick (17-7) 25 25 25

Amherst (19-5) 17 15 22

Stat Leaders

HITTING — B: Gabbie Bulic 17 kills, Ally Badowski 17 kills; A: Ashley Makrusky 10 kills, Mallory Sliman 9 kills; SETTING — B: Megan Anderson 33 assists; A: Riley Schenk 64-65, 25 assists; SERVING — B: Morgan Ritchie 19 points; A: Erica Turner 12 points; DIGS — B: Paige Elias 16; A: Turner 10, Schenk 10; BLOCKS — B: Bulic 8, 3 block kills; A: Sliman 5 block kills.


Last Updated: 10/23/2012 11:51:51 PM EST

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