BURLINGTON >> Lewis Mills’ girls volleyball team beat the Ellington 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-13, 25-15) Wednesday evening in a match at least as much about the mental game as the physical.
Two factors set up the psych game on either side. Lewis Mills, 13-7 in the Berkshire League, had its emotions flowing before the game with a tearful Senior Night celebration featuring tribute speeches by the younger players.
Ellington, 7-13 in the NCCC, needed a win in this last game of the regular season to qualify for states.
With all the Spartan seniors playing in Game One, a see-saw battle gave the Knights the advantage, focusing on their target.
Ellington senior Healee Kranmas had three convincing kills in the early going. Jennie Schneider had a block and a kill in the middle on the way to a 15-11 Ellington advantage.
Worse for Mills, many of the Knights’ points came on unforced Spartan errors.
Trailing 21-16, Mills rallied to 22-20 on the strength of a tap by Samira Abdelrehim, and a lob and a kill by Emily Hamel following the night’s best volley.
Then three straight unforced Spartan errors handed the game to the Knights.
In Game Two, Mills built a 10-5 lead based on a swing to Ellington unforced errors.
“We tend to do very well at the beginning, then drop,” said Ellington coach Allison Watras. “I think we get a touch of panic.”
On the other side, Mills showed its capabilities with a great dig by senior Arlee Twitchell followed by Haley Tharau’s shot to an empty Ellington spot for the 11-6 lead.
“When we’re winning, we tend to play smart,” said Spartan coach Chuck Drda.
Even so, in the emotional game of volleyball, it helps to have an anchor.
After Ellington came back from a 17-13 Game Two deficit to take a 19-7 lead, Haley DeJoseph (10 kills, 15 digs, 4 aces) had a block, followed by kills from Tharau and Caroline Kucia for the Spartan lead.
But the emerging anchor was 5-10 junior hitter Samantha Furst.
Furst’s block and a serving ace by Kucia sealed the Game Two win.
Other Spartans made huge contributions as Mills showed increasing confidence in their teamwork, along with continuing unforced errors.
Furst’s presence at the net made the difference when she was in.
“She didn’t make any errors,” said Drda.
With eight kills and seven blocks, her dependability at the net lent confidence to Mills and panic to the Knights as the Spartans swept through Games Three and Four without another hiccup.
“It’s easy to play when you have a team you’re friends with,” Furst said. “It’s more fun to block (than score kills) because you take them by surprise.”
Mills’ next appearance comes Friday in the four-team Berkshire League Tournament at Lewis Mills High School.
Lewis Mills 3, Ellington 1
(21-25, 25-22, 25-13, 25-15)
Highlights: E – April Phelps 18 assists. LM – Samantha Furst 8 kills, 7 blocks; Arlee Twitchell 28 assists; Sarah Wall 26 digs; Haley DeJoseph 10 kills, 15 digs, 4 aces; Courtney Hock 5 kills, 6 digs.
Records: Ellington 7-13; Lewis Mills 13-7