EATON TWP. — The Amherst volleyball team couldn’t match Brunswick in height, but it could in grit and determination.
That was what worried Blue Devils coach Mande Pyzik.
“Amherst is one of the scrappiest teams around,” Pyzik said. “You know what you’re going to get from Amherst. They’re going to be scrappy and they’re going to play hard and fight for every point.”
As it turned out, Pyzik had little reason to worry. Brunswick used not only its size advantage, but some nearly flawless defense and serve receptions to defeat the Comets 25-17, 25-15, 25-22 in a Midview Division I District semifinal Tuesday.
The victory puts Brunswick (17-7) into Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. championship against Avon Lake (19-5), which beat Elyria in three games.
The victory also turned the tables on Amherst (19-5), which knocked Brunswick out of last season’s district in a semifinal match that lasted five games.
“They had a goal,” Pyzik said of her players. “Amherst beat us in this spot last year, and they didn’t want that to happen again.”
It did not happen not simply because Amherst had no answer for Gabrielle Bulic, the Blue Devils’ 6-foot-4 middle hitter. The Comets also had no reply for freshman Ally Badowski, who complimented Bulic’s 20 kills with 18. The Blue Devils also were marvelous on the back row, particularly in Game 1, when they had just one unforced mistake.
“The serve receiving, which is very important to us, was borderline perfect,” Pyzik said. “There were almost no errors and we got good passes to our setter almost every time. The defense was solid. We let almost nothing hit the ground.”
Amherst was not nearly as scrappy as the Blue Devils thought the Comets would be, according to Amherst coach Laurie Cogan.
“I will take nothing away from Brunswick,” Cogan said. “Bulic is a nice player, but this wasn’t one of our best matches. Emotion has been one of our strengths this year, and we showed no emotion tonight. We weren’t as competitive as we should’ve been. Every team has a bad offensive night, but the timing for our bad offensive night meant we’re out of the tournaments.”
The Blue Devils also got help from Morgan Ritchie, who had five of her nine kills in Game 1.
“Everyone stepped it up,” Pyzik said. “The seniors showed lots of leadership, and you would have thought Ally (Badowski) was senior the way she was playing.”
Brunswick led the first game from start to finish. The Blue Devils’ lead was just 11-10 before a 10-3 run put them in control. An 8-3 run in Game 2 gave Brunswick a 9-4 lead and Amherst never managed to get close.
The third game was far more competitive. The Comets tied the score at 14 and had a 4-1 run that got them to within 22-21. A kill by Badowski and an Amherst hitting error made the score 24-21. A kill by the Comets’ Mallory Sliman kept Amherst alive before Badowski’s kill ended the match.
Megan Anderson led the Blue Devils with 33 assists. Paige Elias had 16 digs, while Bulic added eight blocks.
Contact Steve Byrne at (440) 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.