SHARON, Mass. – When the final serve hit the net and dropped to the court, the Sharon players started to celebrate, clapped a little, and then calmly walked over to the sidelines. Maybe they didn’t realize just how rare it was for the Eagles to earn a win against Canton.
Sharon took control in the opening set and never let go, sweeping Monday night’s match 25-13, 25-19, 25-17 to stay unbeaten this season. It was the first win for the Eagles against the Bulldogs, who have won 13 of the last 14 league titles, since at least 2002. (Records aren’t definite for the 2002 season, but Sharon beat Canton at least once in 2001, the Bulldogs’ first season as a varsity program.)
Not only did the Eagles win, but they were the better team in all facets of the game. Senior hitter Sara Fandel gave Sharon a constant outlet on the outside and, even without Sara’s twin sister Leah, the Eagles dominated play at the net. Brynne Aidlin-Pearlman added a second hitter and setters Yvette Nau and Sonya Gray consistently delivered the ball to the right spots.
“If it was only Sara, then I’d be like, okay we have this one amazing player, but everybody is just falling in,” said Sharon coach Andrea Lovett. “I don’t know if she’s bringing them up to her level? Brynne is super strong with what she’s doing. It’s just so exciting to see it.”
The Eagles got off to a quick start, leading 4-1 in the opening set, but Canton rallied with a pair of Angie Elias kills to grab an 8-7 lead and it looked like usual service was restored. Sharon got an ace from Savannah Gray and a point from Nau to restore the lead and then a pair of kills by Fandel, the second after a long rally, put Sharon ahead 13-10.
After Canton had tied the set at 9-9, Sharon won 16 of the next 20 points to take a lead in the match. Fandel had six kills and an ace and Erin Schustek added a point during the run. The Bulldogs had no response.
“[Fandel] was amazing and we just didn’t have an answer,” admitted Canton coach Pat Cawley. “We’re still trying to figure ourselves out after losing our outside hitters and they brought it to us. Volleyball is all about passing and we couldn’t pass the ball tonight and it all broke down from there. They deserve all the credit, they put the pressure on us.”
In the second set, Sharon had an early lead, but tips by Sydney Gallery and Liz Bickett put Canton up 9-8. Elias and Bickett followed with kills, sandwiched around a big hit by Aidlin-Pearlman to make it 12-9. That would be the largest lead for Canton in any set in the match.
Sharon stormed back with eight straight points before a bump by Nikki Desjardins dropped in for a point. The Eagles never trailed again in the match. Fandel smashed a cross-court kill and Schustek served an ace to make it 23-14. Elias had back-to-back kills but the Eagles never lost their composure and Aidlin-Pearlman smashed a kill down the line to seal the set.
“It’s a ton of confidence,” Lovett said about the impact of having strong hitters on the outside. “Between Sara and Brynne and Leah when she gets back, it’s the same story. They know, I can play full speed because if I make a mistake then I have five people who can cover for me. They know that and it makes them really good.”
The Bulldogs were hoping to regroup and build some momentum in the third set, but the Eagles never let off the gas. Sharon won the first seven points of the third and Canton wasn’t able to get any closer than five points in what turned out to be the final set.
Fandel was again the spark with six kills in the third, but it was an all-around effort that kept the Eagles in front. Libero Emily Rubenstein, Nau, and Gray were all excellent defensively and Aidlin-Pearlman was able to defend and score from the net or the back line.
“That’s normally our weakness,” Lovett said, “but their serve-receive was excellent tonight. I tell them all the time, that makes all the difference. You can’t do any of this without a good serve-receive.”
Gray stepped up with a big point to make it 19-10 and Nau seemed to shock ever herself with a big block that made it 23-15.
Canton tried to hang around, but struggled to get the ball to Bickett in the middle or Elias on the outside. Anna Verille had a kill and Jackie Morrissey had a bump drop in front of the Sharon defense for a point at 21-15 but the Bulldogs never looked like getting back into it.
“We couldn’t block them, we couldn’t dig them,” said Cawley. “They deserve all the credit in the world. I thought Angie played great the whole match but other than that we got in a hole early and we don’t have the confidence [to come back].”
After the win, Sharon (3-0) is now tied with Oliver Ames atop the Davenport division and Lovett is sure that her team will be ready to go on Wednesday when the Eagles visit Canton (2-1) for the rematch.
“This group of kids, especially our seniors, are really centered on volleyball,” Lovett explained, “and I think that I would normally be like, oh god we’re probably going to come back and do terrible on Wednesday because we’re over-confident, but I don’t think they’re that type of kids. They know that it can change at any minute, so let’s get out there.”