ATTLEBORO, Mass. – In a shortened fifth set, getting off to a good start is paramount. After battling back to even Wednesday night’s match at two sets apiece, Milford carried the momentum over, winning seven of the final set’s first eight points and never looking back.
The Hawks came back from down a set twice in the match before finally pulling out a 3-2 (17-25, 25-7, 19-25, 25-14, 15-7) road victory that completes a hard-fought season sweep of the Bombardiers and moves Milford back to .500 on the year.
“The consistency wasn’t there tonight, that’s for sure,” admitted Milford coach Tammy Webber, who praised her team for being able to battle and still come out with the win. She added, “That’s a sign of growth that they were able to do that because I’d say in the past we would’ve folded in the fifth set.”
Attleboro has struggled in the opening set of its last two matches (at Taunton and at Milford) and found it hard to climb back out of the early hole. On Wednesday, the Bombardiers came out with extra energy and an emphasis on starting quickly. It worked.
The Bombardiers used a 7-0 run to turn a 6-3 deficit into a 10-6 lead in the first. Gabriella Bolduc gave Attleboro an early spark with a couple of kills and Summer Pereira stepped up in the middle with three blocks in the first. After Milford answered with three straight, Attleboro rattled off 10 of the next 14 points to take control of the set.
“Playing on the road is always difficult,” said first-year Attleboro coach Mary Katherine Runey. “Our fans aren’t there and we’re staying on the bus until we’re allowed to come in and that’s definitely taking a hit on us, but I was excited to get back at home because I know we have way more energy.”
Krista Greening had a good swing off the Milford block for a point and then Ana Leonardo fired in an ace. Elise Fauerbach had a block for the Hawks to try and stall Attleboro’s momentum but Natalie Brojek had a kill and then Pereira closed out the first with another block.
“The block has not been there all season and the defense has really taken a hit,” Runey said, “but tonight the switch was flipped and Summer was hot and I was so happy to see it. She really need that for her own play and I was happy for her.”
After such a great start, it looked like Attleboro was on its way, but the second set was all Milford. The Hawks scored 13 of the first 14 points in the set and then closed it with the final eight points to earn a lopsided point in the match.
Cressida Michalowski had three aces during the first portion of the set. Lexi Starks had a bump drop in for a point and Sarah Brogioli started to heat up on the outside. During the final run to close out the set, Starks added a pair of aces and Aliza Syed scored with a tip and a block. The combination of Brogioli on the outside and Syed in the middle was tough for Attleboro to contain.
Webber said, “I’m happy with the balance of our hitters this year. We have a good mix of strength and finesse and consistency. It’s been good.”
The hosts quickly set aside the difficult second set and got back to the strong serve-receive game that they played at the start of the match, but a Syed kill had the Hawks up 14-11. Attleboro didn’t panic and scored the next seven points to take the lead.
Pereira got it started with a block that fired up the Bombardiers and Kate Petrosso had a big swing in the middle to tie the set at 14-14. Milford kept things close but a couple of errors a service point from Lily Boedeker gave Attleboro a cushion to restore its lead in the match.
Milford seemed to thrive in the even numbered sets. With Attleboro leading the fourth 7-6, nine of the next 10 points to put themselves in front to stay. Starks got it going with a kill and then a well-place tip and Brogioli had back-to-back aces for a 15-8 lead. Brojek answered with a nice tip over the block but Brogioli had a pair of kills and Michalowski had an ace.
After Fauerbach scored with a swing off the Attleboro block, Syed added a kill. Brogioli closed out the fourth with another big hit on the outside.
“If the other team gets three or four in a row, then they start to lose their confidence in themselves,” Runey explained. “We need to develop our winning mindset and as soon as they see that start to slip away it really takes its toll on their confidence.”
Now that Milford was back in it, the Hawks made sure to close things out. Syed had a kill and a block and Emily Croteau added an ace as the visitors scored the first four points of the fifth set. Michalowski added back-to-back aces, the first hitting the top of the net before dropping in, and Attleboro never recovered. The Bombardiers got no closer than four and the Hawks pulled away to get the win.
“You never want to have to come back in the fifth set,” said Webber. “Our serving has been our go-to so far this season and when it fails us it really affects our game and we scored a lot of points of it but we really needed it in the fifth game.”
After starting with two tough matches against league-leading Franklin, Milford (2-2) has built a little momentum heading into two matches against King Philip.
“We were trying not to gauge our whole season off of Franklin,” Webber said. “It was a little measuring stick, but we knew we could play better than that and we played better this week.”
Attleboro (1-3) will look to rebound when it hosts Mansfield on Monday.