Following an opening round bye, the Archbishop Bergan Lady Knights fell to Aquinas Catholic in three sets Thursday evening during the first day of the 2017 Centennial Conference Volleyball Tournament.
Hosting the tournament, No. 1 seed Bergan took the first set 25-20 before losing consecutive sets 25-23 and 25-21. Because of the conference tournament format, the usual best-of-five sets parameters weren’t followed.
Sue Wewel, head coach of the Lady Knights, said that No. 9 seed Aquinas came into the match with more fire; leading to more efficient execution in terms of blocking, overall defense and striking. After winning the first set, momentum should have started benefitting the Lady Knights, however, it didn’t.
“We came back in the next game (second set) and just didn’t have the intensity – just really flat,” Wewel said. “And I always tell the girls that when you give a team hope, and they have nothing to lose, they are going to go at it and that’s exactly what happened. Aquinas played a great game, they really did.”
While the downhill spiral began in set two, it started off on a high note. Junior Allison Dieckmann got Bergan moving in the right direction by starting the set off with two ace serves giving the Lady Knights a 2-0. A service error cut the lead to 2-1, before an ace serve followed by a net violation gave the Monarchs a 3-2 lead.
An Allie DeGroff Kill tied the set at 3-3, and following an Aquinas point, a Lexie Langley kill made it 4-4.
Langley and DeGroff provided the backbone of the Bergan firepower offensively on the evening.
Bergan trailed for much of the set until regaining an 18-16 lead following two kills. Following a three-point scoring run capped off by Kloe Ruth’s Kill, Aquinas went up 19-18 and didn’t lose the lead the remainder of the set, winning 25-23.
Trailing 22-12 in the third and final set, Wewel said her squad made some adjustments that enabled it to go on a 7-0 run, closing the gap to 22-19. The strategy, she said, was to attack the Monarch’s left side.
“The setter was always coming out of the front row so we found out real quickly that — we like to go to setter side – but they handled the ball really, really well,” Wewel said. “So we switched our strategy to go to the left side and it worked there for a while. We just didn’t have enough points to regain the deficit that we had.”
Wewel said that she didn’t say much to her players following the loss, there was just a quick prayer and she sent them on their way. Heading into Saturday’s match, Wewel said some of the big keys are blocking better, along with having her players be a little more aggressive offensively.
“A lot of our hitters just didn’t go up and swing, they were almost afraid to lose tonight,” she said. “And tonight was a big stage they haven’t been on in a while, and it showed tonight, how they got themselves into a rut and couldn’t recover.”