BROADALBIN - Johnstown stormed all the way back from a 2-0 deficit to keep its perfect season alive, edging out Broadalbin-Perth, 3-2, on Wednesday in a Foothills Council volleyball match at Broadalbin-Perth High School.
The match went the absolute distance with Johnstown taking it by scores of 18-25, 18-25, 25-22, 25-19, and 26-24.
Broadalbin-Perth (7-3) cruised through the first two games, making quick work of a Lady Bills team that seemed out of rhythm and was marred by miscommunication on the court.
Broadalbin-Perth’s Gabby Smith (5) and Chelsea Leblanc (10) look to block a kill attempt by Johnstown’s Hannah Breda (8) during Wednesday’s Foothills Council match at Broadalbin-Perth High School. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)
"In the first two games we never actually ran our offense," said Johnstown head coach Heather McGuire. "We were disjointed and just never really got into our game."
The Lady Patriots led for most of the first game, but the Lady Bills mounted a comeback that saw them tie the game at 13 following a kill by Hannah Breda. Broadalbin-Perth's Chelsea Leblanc and Breda alternated kills for the next two points before the Lady Patriots began to pull away. With a 19-17 lead, Keyana Fariello served Broadalbin-Perth to a 24-17 lead as multiple instances of Johnstown miscommunication allowed the Lady Patriots to secure the game one victory.
Game two brought more of the same despite a quick 3-1 lead for the Lady Bills. Broadalbin-Perth used a long service streak by Maddie Gurga to quickly gain a comfortable lead. Gurga smashed two aces during the run. Late in the game, more Lady Bills miscues keyed a service run by Gabby Smith that ultimately gave the Lady Patriots a 22-15 lead. Gurga pounded a ball off the hands of Morgan Catania to give the Lady Patriots the two-games-to-none cushion.
The Lady Patriots, who hadn't lost a match since a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Lady Bills on September 6, headed into game three with all of the momentum. According to head coach Mike Calvello, avenging that loss wasn't necessarily a motivating factor Wednesday.
"I think they just motivate themselves," said Calvello. "They're friends with a lot of the girls because they play club and stuff like that."
McGuire explained how such familiarity might have helped the Lady Bills regroup after facing a 2-0 deficit.
"These girls play with each other year round so they know each others tendencies," said McGuire.
Game three was a back-and-forth battle that featured 10 ties. After alternating leads for most of the game, Fariello served an ace to tie the game at 19 a piece. Johnstown's Alyssa Nellis registered one of her seven blocks to retake the lead, but the Lady Patriots tied the game at 22 with a shutout within their grasp. Annie Stock came up big for Johnstown, however, pounding two huge kills in the final moments of the game as Johnstown held on for the 25-22 victory.
"I think we self-destructed a little bit in the third game," said Calvello. "Just little unforced errors that cost us that game."
Smith served Broadalbin-Perth to a 5-0 lead in game four, prompting Johnstown to take a timeout that seemed to turn things around. During the timeout, McGuire told her players to play "tougher" and that the Lady Patriots simply "wanted it more." After the pep talk, the Lady Bills responded in a big way. Broadalbin-Perth held a 15-11 lead, but the Lady Bills went on 14-4 run to sew up game four and tie the match 2-2. The comeback featured lengthy, intense rallies and long service streaks by Stock and Brianne O'Rourke.
"I'd say we started playing our game in the middle of the fourth game," said McGuire. "Something about this gym, playing away, playing a great team, we just didn't really start clicking until late."
Johnstown's resilience came as no surprise to Broadalbin-Perth's head coach.
"Johnstown stepped it up and that's what happens," said Calvello. "They're in first place for a reason."
The Lady Bills jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the fifth and deciding game, thanks in part to miscommunication on the part of the Lady Patriots. Broadalbin-Perth (7-3 overall, 6-3 Foothills) wouldn't go down quietly, however, as Schalmont Sweet 16 Tournament MVP Gurga pounded multiple rockets back at the Lady Bills as part of a feverish comeback. With Johnstown up 19-18 the Lady Patriots landed a ball just before the end line, marking the first of six late-game ties before either team could claim victory. Breda had a big block for Johnstown to knot the match at 21. Breda came up big all match long for the Lady Bills, registering 11 kills to go along with seven blocks. With Johnstown holding a 25-24 advantage, a controversial double hit was called on Broadalbin-Perth as Johnstown celebrated their come from behind victory.
"It was our match to win and, like I said, we just self-destructed," said Calvello. "They played really well. There's nothing to be ashamed of, we just have to cut down on our mistakes."
Stock registered 19 kills and 39 digs for Johnstown (9-0 Foothills), while Jerica Holland contributed 16 assists and two of Johnstown's five aces. The Lady Patriots registered 10 aces.
"Broadalbin's a great team," said McGuire. The fact that they started 0-2 has absolutely nothing to do with their ability. They're really good."
The Lady Patriots will look to rebound tomorrow in Glens Falls, while the Lady Bills will be in Queensbury looking to remain perfect against the Spartans. Both matches are slated for a 6 p.m. start.