PORT ALLEGANY – Johnsonburg made things interesting with a close first set but were never able to fully regroup in a 3-0 (26-24, 25-13, 25-20) loss Thursday night at No. 1 seed Port Allegany.
“We didn’t really pass well but I thought we were really one hit away from winning that first game but then the second game, our composure went away a little bit,” said Johnsonburg head varsity volleyball coach Bill Shuey. “You can’t win this game if you can’t pass the ball.
“I don’t think Port Allegany did anything differently to us, I just think we made a few mistakes.”
The first set was a battle-and-a-half with the teams trading points down to the wire. The teams traded errors to get to 20-19 before a Johnsonburg net violation gave the home team the 2-point lead. A kill and subsequent ace from Johnsonburg senior Kiesha Dornish knotted the first set at 21-all. The Ramettes’ next offensive try found the net but the visitors took advantage of two consecutive Lady Gator errors to take a 23-22 lead after a serve from senior Brianna Fabris.
A close strike from senior Katie Galsick fell just over the line to tie the score at 23-23 before Port Allegany junior Rachel Taylor snuffed out a Galsick kill attempt to put the Lady Gators on the brink of the first-set win at 24-23.
Galsick immediately redeemed herself with a play at the net to pull even at 24-all before Taylor took over. The junior middle hitter unleashed a big hit that was subsequently blocked by Johnsonburg but sailed out of bounds for a 25-24 Port Allegany lead. Taylor then served a rocket over the net that was mishit to give the Lady Gators the first set, 26-24.
The second game was nowhere near as close as Shuey expressed disappointment as the Ramettes made several errors en route to a 25-13 loss to go down two sets to none.
The teams were dead even at 5-all before Taylor again stole the show with a pair of kills and an ace for an 8-5 advantage; fellow Lady Gator junior Jenny Shelley would follow suit with a kill for a 9-5 lead before Taylor’s next serve went into the net. A big hit from Galsick inched the Ramettes closer at 10-7 but the wheels started to fall off afterwards with a Shelley kill and subsequent error into the net from a 12-7 Port Allegany lead. A Lady Gator net violation temporarily halted the run at 15-10 but the home team took the next four points on two Johnsonburg errors, a kill from junior Ashley Woodruff and a big block from Taylor for a 19-10 lead.
A Galsick kill did little to stop the momentum as Taylor shrugged it off with a kill of her own. Two more errors gave Port Allegany a 10-point lead at 22-12 and despite a Dornish shot that fell just inside the line, the Lady Gators took advantage of three errors by Johnsonburg, culminating with a mishit off a Woodruff serve for a 25-13 win in the second set.
“We had some unforced errors in the second game that let that one get away from us. [Port Allegany] didn’t make the mistakes, we did,” Shuey said. “I thought in the third game that it was nice to see our girls make a go of it and our passing seemed to get better.
“We got some balls to the net but we just couldn’t finish.”
The home team jumped out to a quick 7-1 lead backed by two kills and a block from Taylor. The hot start prompted a Ramette timeout as the visitors tried to regroup and salvage the third set to extend the match.
A kill and ace from Johnsonburg sophomore Chelsea Benson closed the gap before kills from Taylor and Port Allegany senior Becca Culver restored order at 9-3. The teams traded points to 13-6 before the Lady Gators were slapped with a double-hit call to cut the lead to 14-6.
Another Taylor block built a 10-point lead at 16-6 and the teams traded errors on the next four points to 17-9 after a Taylor shot lined into the stands.
Kills from Benson and Galsick would later cut the lead to five points and despite a Taylor block, a Port Allegany hit found the net on the next point to set the score at 19-13.
Taylor and Galsick traded kills to 20-14 before a mishit from Woodruff off a poor set went nowhere near the net to cut the deficit to five points. Culver went on to lay down a kill at 21-15 before a shot from Johnsonburg junior Brittany Watts went long for a 7-point Lady Gator lead. Dornish laid down a kill on the next point to cut the score to 22-16 and senior Sarah Bevacqua served up an ace to inch closer.
A big block from Watts cut the deficit to four points before an errant shot from the Ramettes tip the out-of-bounds pole to give Port Allegany a 23-18 lead.
Watts and Benson laid down kills to cut the lead to 23-20 but the Ramettes misplaced the set on the next point to give the serve back to the home team.
With Port Allegany senior Becky Andrus serving for the match, a misplay on the Johnsonburg end finished the set, 25-20, and with it the 2011 season.
“You can’t give a team that is a good hitting team free balls,” Shuey said as he discussed the difficulty overcoming Taylor and Port Allegany freshman Brooke Roys. “We had to rely on our offense to prevent them from getting any offense, and when we did hit at them, we wouldn’t really get a good hit on it.
“Then when we’d try to just plop it over and tip it, they were right there waiting for it, set it up and knocked it down. You can’t do that at this level, no one can.”
Despite being an undefeated team in regular season play, Shuey said his team was not intimidated by the Lady Gators’ accolades coming into the playoff match.
“We weren’t intimidated by that because the leagues are different and you just can’t measure it that way,” Shuey said. “If the first game had turned out in our favor maybe it could’ve been a very different match.
“The seniors played hard and you always hate to see this time of the season come because obviously their season is over. We have a lot of good athletes coming back but I would like to thank our seniors.”
The departing seniors are Sarah Bevacqua, Kiesha Dornish, Brianna Fabris, Katie Galsick and Kiana Myers.