High School Volleyball: Amherst drops to Strongsville in regional semifinal

Sam Greene/The Morning Journal Amherst middle hitter Brooke Wallace spikes the ball past Strongsville defenders during game three of the regional semifinal match against Strongsville on Wednesday night.

Sam Greene/The Morning Journal Amherst outside hitter Alayna Johnston spikes the ball past Strongsville defenders during game three of Wednesday night's match.

Sam Greene/The Morning Journal Amherst defensive specialist Madison Cruzado falls as she attempts to save a ball during game three of Wednesday night's match.

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS – Amherst’s fantastic season came to an end.

The Comets gave it a valiant effort, but Strongsville had too much firepower en route to a 25-19, 25-15, 21-25, 25-17 Division I Regional semifinal win at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School Wednesday. The Comets, who were ranked sixth in the state, finish the season at 22-4.

“I thought we came out a little tentative in games one and two,” Amherst Coach Laurie Cogan said. “I think the situation caught most of the kids off-guard. However for them to come back and win game three … and in my opinion we were competitive in game four. All in all, I thought we compete well. Strongsville is a very good team. … I think our fight and will to win (helped) us play a respectable match.”

Down 2-0, Amherst showed its grit and determination. Behind the hitting of Mallory Sliman (13 kills) and taking advantage of Strongsville errors, the Comets rallied to take the third game, 25-21.

Strongsville responded behind the hitting of Kelsey Bittinger

The Kent State University recruit, who had 25 kills, helped the Mustangs open up a 17-10 lead. Undaunted, the Comets responded. Sophomore Ashley Makruski helped them close the gap down to 22-17. Brooke Wallace also had a hand with a couple of block kills.

But Strongsville fended off the rally and Bittinger recorded her sixth ace of the match to end Amherst’s season.

Amherst, who lost to Strongsville earlier in the season, fell behind quickly in the first set. They struggled in serve-receive which took them out of system. It also didn’t allow them to get a consistent amount of attacks at the net.

The Comets trailed never got on track in the first set before falling 25-19.

The second set was equally as tough for Amherst.

Behind some outstanding serving, Strongsville opened up a 15-3 lead in the second set. The key to the Mustangs getting out to a big lead was the serving of Hannah Mott, who rattled off seven straight serving points. The Mustangs were also helped by a few uncharacteristic Amherst errors during the run.

Along with fantastic hitters, Strongsville also posted big blocks at the net. Using their height advantage, the Mustangs were able to get two blocks kills in the set including the one which gave them a 2-0 lead.

Though down and facing an uphill battle, Cogan went to a different line-up for the third set.

Putting Schenk at one of the net and Wallace in the middle, Amherst showed its fighting spirit.

“What I did with my line-up and where I was putting kids … we’ve never done that before,” Cogan said. But I was grabbing at straws. To these kids credit – and I have a lot of young players on the court – they almost executed what I tried to get them to do with near-perfection with no practice.

“I did not anticipate having to try some of the things I did … to their credit they were very coachable and worked very hard. I’m very proud of the kids."

The third game is when Makruski started to come of age. The sophomore had five kills in the third game, including the one to force game four.

Riley Schenk had 38 assists, while Makruski grew up in the match with 19 kills.

Though the season ends, Cogan was pleased with the senior leadership provided by Sliman and Schenk, while the underclassmen give Amherst a reason to look forward to next season.

Last Updated: 10/31/2013 12:10:39 AM EST

From the Bleachers

See All