PLAINVILLE - The Berlin girls volleyball team was on the brink of being pushed to a decisive fifth set against Plainville on Monday, but senior Alexis Kumm put the match out of reach with a pair of serves that were out of the reach of the Blue Devils’ outstretched arms.
Back-to-back service aces by Kumm turned a 23-23 tie into a 25-23 win for the Redcoats, who took down Plainville 3-1 (22-25, 25-14, 25-11, 25-23) to move to within one game of qualifying for the state tournament.
“It felt really good,” Kumm said of the serves head coach Angela Kumm called “clutch.” “It was kind of nerve-wracking, but I just wanted to get those serves over for my team because we really wanted that win.”
The fourth set was just as intense as the first, when Plainville (2-13) erased an early deficit and showed Berlin (7-9) it wasn’t backing down despite a rough season so far.
The Blue Devils grabbed the first point of the opening set, but the Redcoats responded with four straight points thanks to kills by Lyzi Litwinko and Jordan Barber, and two service aces from Barber to put Berlin ahead 4-1.
Plainville fought back behind a kill and a service ace from Wiktoria Galzyn to tie the set at five and took the lead on a kill from senior captain Katherine Tanguay on the next volley. Two straight errors from the Redcoats pushed the Blue Devils’ lead to 10-6 later in the set, but Berlin continued the back and forth beginning by taking the next three points, highlighted by a Makayla Gorski kill off a long volley and a service ace from Sydney Duke that glanced off the top of the top of the net and fell harmlessly to the ground.
Plainville grabbed some separation thanks to the serving of Makayla Caron, who used two straight service aces to put the Blue Devils ahead 18-13 and force a timeout from Kumm. Caron and the Blue Devils took the first point after the timeout, but the Redcoats rallied for the next four to once again draw closer. A kill from Jessica Boucher and an ace by Litwinko knotted the score at 20, but Plainville once again wouldn’t let Berlin complete the comeback, taking the next three points to force another Redcoats timeout.
Trying once more to complete a comeback, the Redcoats pulled within one before a costly service error gave the ball back to the Blue Devils, who finished the job for a 25-22 win, though it was all Redcoats after that.
“That’s pretty much our MO all year,” Plainville head coach Bob Moffo said. “We start out really strong and somehow the pendulum swings and we have a problem getting it back.”
Like the first set, Berlin jumped out to an early three-point lead, but this time it was able to add on. A kill by Boucher out of a Plainville timeout stretched the advantage to 12-4, and later in the set, the Blue Devils needed another timeout after three straight errors pushed Berlin’s lead to 19-10, which it eventually won 25-14.
The Redcoats’ momentum continued into the third set. A service ace by Kumm and a hard kill by Litwinko put them ahead 7-2 early on, but back-to-back aces from Galzyn helped trim Plainville’s deficit to three. Kills by Gorski and Boucher lifted the Redcoats lead back to seven, and four straight aces by Boucher later gave Berlin a comfortable 23-9 cushion, helping the Redcoats take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Berlin continued its surge that began after the first set into the fourth, running out to a 5-0 lead behind a kill from Kumm. Like the Redcoats in the first set, the Blue Devils fought back multiple times, but couldn’t get over the last hump, at least until an ace by Olivia Wazorko knotted the score at 21 after Plainville pulled to within two on six separate occasions before Berlin broke up those runs.
“I think our girls got a little lackadaisical,” Angela Kumm said. “We weren’t making as good passes.”
Out of a Redcoats timeout, an error gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the set at 22-21, but minutes later, Berlin pulled even at 23 apiece, setting up a dramatic finish by Kumm, who helped fight off a Blue Devils team that nearly set themselves up for a potential upset.
“I think we played really hard,” Tanguay said. “We kept the communication up and kept playing hard. We kept fighting for it.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org