Thursday, December 7, 2023

Berkshire knocks off Kirtland in Valley Division battle for first place

KIRTLAND—Berkshire moved into a tie for first place in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division after knocking off host Kirtland on Thursday, 3-1.

The Badgers lost to the Hornets back on Sept. 21 but bounced back with a 25-21, 23-25, 25-19, 25-15 win. Both teams stand at 5-1 in league play with four conference matches remaining.

“I’m really proud of how they came out and fought. We had a score to settle,” said Berkshire head coach Joni Prots. “Kirtland played very well the first time we played them, but we felt like we made too many errors and we wanted to come in tonight and clean up our side and prove we can play the game.”

Berkshire’s win snapped Kirtland’s 34-game conference win streak.

Game one of the match got off to a competitive start. Neither team managed to build up much of a lead and the two sides were tied at 15. From that point, the Badgers offense–led by Maddie Smetana and Marissa Rish–would build up a four-point advantage on the way to the first set win.

“Obviously, Maddie’s our go to when you want that point, but I feel like we have many hitters that can put the ball down,” Prots said of the Badgers’ offense. “As much as you can shade to Maddie, you have to play straight up with the rest of them because they can beat you, too.”

Picking up where the first game left off, game two was another barn burner. After playing to a seven-point tie, a 9-4 Berkshire run led to a 16-11 lead. However, clutch play down the stretch, including an ace and a spike courtesy of Bria Golem, would see Kirtland regain the lead. Keely Young then hammered home the final point as the Hornets won the second set, 25-23.

Game 3 was just as competitive as the previous two, but a 7-1 Berkshire run coupled with Kate Miller’s two service aces and a Jillian Smetana kill led to a 25-19 Badger victory.

“After we lost game two, we could’ve gotten back on our heels and not worked,” Prots said. “But they worked harder, which again makes me really proud.”

With a 2-1 advantage, Berkshire would put on their most convincing performance of the night. Quickly jumping out to a 7-1 lead, the Badgers would not relinquish the lead for the entire fourth game.

With victory within grasp, Maddie Smetana took over. A plethora of incredible saves, hits, and blocks would capture the win and the match for Berkshire.

Smetana led the Badgers with 19 kills while sister Jillian added 11. Miller and Jillian Smetana led the Badgers with two aces each, Kirsten Shaffer dominated at the net with six blocks, Miller posted a team-high 24 digs, Marissa Rish added 24 assists.

Berkshire and Kirtland now must match each other win for win down the stretch to split the Valley Division title.

“Sometimes when you have a big highlight, that’s when there can be some letdown and we don’t really have time for that,” Prots said of the importance of building upon this win. “We have some really tough teams at Perry this weekend and every CVC game has to count from now on.”

Nina Loncar led Kirtland with 13 kills, Young led the team with four blocks, Nina Alfieri posted a team-best 20 digs, and Alexis Shaffer finished with a match-high 35 assists.

Berkshire will be back in action when they compete in a tournament at Perry on Saturday. Meanwhile, Kirtland will return to the court next Tuesday when they travel to Middlefield to take on the Cardinal Huskies.


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