WRENTHAM, Mass. – In the opening game of Thursday night’s Div. 1 Central-East semifinal, King Philip jumped all over visiting Quincy to build a 12-4 lead and then extending it back to seven points at 20-13. It looked like the Warriors were going to have a quick one-game lead on the Presidents in the rematch of last year’s five-setter at this same stage.
Instead, Quincy rallied to win 12 of the next 15 points and steal the game. Volleyball is a game of momentum swings and KP watched the Presidents carry their momentum over into a dominant second game that put Quincy on the verge of another sectional final.
That could have been it for another strong season for the Warriors, but instead KP fought back. Urged on by its home fans, KP swung the momentum back on its side and stormed back into the match, winning game three and saving a pair of match points to take game four.
Unfortunately for KP (19-3), Quincy was not rattled by the Warriors forcing a fifth game or by the Warriors jumping out to an early 4-1 lead in the deciding set. The teams battled back and forth and in the end, Quincy (19-3) had just enough to pull out the 3-2 (25-23, 25-16, 15-25, 26-28, 15-13) victory and advance again to the final.
“They played great,” said KP coach Kristen Geuss about Thursday’s opponent. “They are a great defensive team; they picked up everything.
“We tried. We played our game…We’ve come back from two games before, just couldn’t pull it out tonight. It wasn’t our night.”
Unlike on Tuesday, KP had the size advantage on Quincy, but the Presidents still had strength on the outside, especially senior Jessie Lei. Quincy took an early 4-1 lead but KP bounced right back with an 11-0 run to take control of the first set. Carly Adams had three straight aces at one point in the run and Sydney Phillips, who was chosen as the Hockomock League MVP by the coaches, added four kills.
The Presidents cut into the lead to get it down to four points, but again KP had an answer with Michaela Palumbo getting a big block to push the lead back to seven at 20-13. Things fell apart for the Warriors in the serve-receive game and Quincy stormed back into it. Geuss tried calling both her timeouts but the visitors took the set.
“We came out a little slow, as usual, and in tournament games you just can’t do that,” Geuss explained.
The energy of the first game carried into the second and Quincy built an early lead. After an error cut the lead to just two points, the Presidents went on a 9-3 run and took command at 19-11. The lone Warriors player who was having any success in the second was outside hitter Liv Baldufu>, as Quincy abandoned the block and sat back to seemingly dig every hit.
“They were getting all the digs,” said Geuss. “I guess they didn’t have to [block] cause they’re that good defensively.”
When asked if it is difficult to bounce back after losing a lead like KP did in the first, Geuss replied, “Absolutely. They had the enthusiasm for the second game. We didn’t. We just weren’t playing our game.”
The Warriors found their game in the third. Phillips had been quiet since her strong start but suddenly started clicking off the passing of Adams and the defensive play of libero Amanda Loewen. Phillips had seven kills in the second and Loewen closed out the game with back-to-back aces to keep the match alive.
Guess was asked about what got Phillips going in the third. She said, “She just needed her confidence back. I think once she got some more momentum, once you get one over and in you start to pick up some confidence.”
KP jumped out to a big lead in the fourth set as well with Loewen getting two more aces and the Warriors saving a point with Adams, Loewen, Kat Kmetz, and Molly Croke all keeping the ball alive before Balduf finished it with a blast down the line to make it 14-6.
The fifth set seemed inevitable at that point but again the Presidents showed resiliency to bounce back, cutting the lead to just three at 18-15. Phillips had the response for KP with three straight kills to give the home team a 23-17 lead, but the Warriors could not close it out and a kill by Shannon Foley tied it at 24-24.
Twice KP had to save a match point and then Emma Lopez rose up and earned her fourth kill of the game to seal a 28-26 win.
In the fifth, with the crowd riveted to every hit, KP took a 4-1 lead after a pair of Phillips kills. Quincy bounced back to win the next five points and force Geuss into a timeout. Lopez tied it at 8-8 with a kill but Quincy would regain the lead at 12-9 and force a second timeout.
A service error and a Phillips kill got KP within one. After an errant shot, Phillips made it 13-12. A service error set up the third match point for Quincy, but Phillips kept the game alive with another kill. The fourth match point turned out to be the difference for Quincy and fittingly it was Lei that got the winner.
“We weren’t picking up the tips. One or two points here or there could’ve changed the momentum easily,” said Geuss.
She added, “It’s good competition. It’s good volleyball and we had a great season. I’m so proud of them.”