By Mike Zummo
The Valley Central volleyball team had taken the first two sets against Pine Bush before things started falling apart a bit in the third.
The Vikings were adamant about not wanting to go to a fifth set.
“We were way too tired for that,” Valley Central team captain Bianca Staples said.
So, the Vikings did what they did in the first two sets. They jumped out to an early lead in the fourth set and held off Pine Bush to finish a 3-1 victory on Thursday night at Pine Bush High School.
“We definitely had to win because we started off the season rough but then we picked it back up. We lost a lot of major players last year, so we had to fill in a lot of spots, but we’ve changed our rotation and we’re starting to make it work.”
Staples was at the service line with the opportunity for the final point and she did her part.
“I usually crumble under pressure, and I was like, ‘I have to make this over’,” Staples said. “We cannot let this go and I got it over, for once.”
The rest of it was up to her fellow co-captain, Riley Schoonmaker, who had the block that ended the night.
“Our game plan was to get the ball to Hailey (Nop), and then we need to set up Bianca and Riley,” Valley Central coach Paige Matuszewski said. “We know those seniors can put the ball down and that’s exactly what they did. Our defense got the ball to Hailey and then Riley and Bianca finished it.”
The last time the two teams met was on Sept. 13, the Vikings’ first game of the season, a match Pine Bush swept, 3-0, as the Vikings lost four of their first five matches. Since they’re 3-0 loss to Monroe-Woodbury on Sept. 24, the Vikings (4-5) have won three straight.
Nop had 45 assists, two kills, an ace and four blocks, while Schoonmaker had 20 kills, five aces and 1 dig. Staples had 16 kills, two aces, six blocks and Bella Frangione had 25 digs and three aces.
“I think this is going to be a big turnaround game for us because we had a rocky start,” Valley Central coach Paige Matuszewski said. “We lost our first three games and then right now we’ve been on an uphill. I think this win will turn the spirits around for sure.”
Pine Bush, meanwhile, struggled early as it worked in some players returning from injury. Another player had just returned from quarantine, so they’re still searching for a rhythm. Plus, COVID-19 protocols have moved them into the main gymnasium and not the smaller gym that they usually play in.
Alandra Hasbrouck had 32 assists, eight digs, three aces and three kills, while Kaeli Murtagh had 13 kills, 1 dig and 1 ace. Monica Ilioiu had 10 kills, 3 digs, and 3 aces, while Jersey Jones had 15 digs, two aces and three assists.
“Valley Central did a better job,” Pine Bush coach Melyssa Klempner-Amelio said. “They played harder, and they wanted it more.”
It’s been a struggle of late for Pine Bush. After losing to the Mount Academy on Sept. 27, they lost to Warwick on Wednesday, and have now lost three straight matches heading into this week.
“It’s hard for them to swallow sometimes, but part of being a competitor is learning how to lose gracefully and work harder to be successful and fix your mistakes.”