Turners Falls storms back, moves to semis

Recorder Staff
Monday, November 06, 2017

TURNERS FALLS — Momentum shifts are especially big in a sport like volleyball. A few quick points can make all the difference in the world.

Turners Falls High School snatched control of that elusive momentum late in Monday night’s Western Massachusetts Division III Volleyball Tournament quarterfinal. Thanks to a flurry in the fourth and fifth sets, the fourth-seeded Powertown overcame a 2-1 deficit to hold off No. 5 Easthampton High School, 19-25, 26-24, 15-25, 25-13, 15-8, and advance to the Division III semifinals for the first time since 2010.

Turners (19-3) will play top-seeded Frontier Regional School (13-8) Wednesday night in South Deerfield at 6:30 for a spot in the Division III championship.

“We fell behind and I told the girls, ‘This is do or die time,’” Turners coach Kelly Liimatainen explained. “This is it. This is the end of the road if we don’t get a win. I’m very proud of the girls for pulling it out.”

Easthampton (14-4) was in control after blitzing Turners in the third set, 25-15, to take a 2-1 lead. The Eagles road the serving of senior libero Samantha Sypek and the offense of junior middle hitter Devney Horne to move within just one game of a spot in the semifinals.

“We didn’t have enough energy early on,” admitted Turners sophomore middle hitter Dabney Rollins of her team’s lackluster start against a scrappy Easthampton team.

Needing a boost in some way, shape or form, Turners received a strong performance off the bench from junior outside hitter Sarah Waldron in the fourth and fifth sets. Rollins saved her best play of the night for the stretch run, and the Powertown took a 13-3 lead in the fourth after she put down a kill.

The lead grew from there, and late kills from Abby Loynd and Sienna Dillensneider enabled Turners to capture a 25-13 win and force a winner-take-all final frame.

“We just needed to relax,” said Dillensneider of her team’s improved play late in the match. “We all talked about it, how this could be our last game and we didn’t want that to happen. It kind of helped motivate us.”

Despite holding the momentum into the fifth set, Turners fell into an early hole. Easthampton, like it did all night buoyed by a vocal visiting fan section that made the trip to the Powertown, put together a strong run to set the tone. The Eagles jumped out to a 4-1 lead on a Lisa Sikop ace, and the home crowd grew a bit weary in the race to 15.

“When we pass the ball, we do well. We couldn’t pass the ball for large parts of the match,” explained Liimatainen.

Senior Chloe Ellis got things on track with a service run, as she helped Turners rattle off five straight points to take a 6-4 lead.

Rollins wound up with three kills and a block in the fifth frame, and another big service run from Waldron had the hosts up 12-5.

Despite a late kill from Horne, Easthampton was unable to climb back. Dillensneider fed Ellis on match point, and the middle hitter put down one final kill to secure a 15-8 win that punched Turners’ ticket to the semifinals.

Rollins finished with 10 kills to go with a pair of blocks, while Dillensneider had 26 assists, five aces, three kills and 10 digs. Ellis (7 kills) and Miner (8 kills, 2 aces) also paced the offense, while libero Adrianna DiMaio tossed in eight digs.

“Dabney was amazing,” lauded Liimatainen of her sophomore. “They couldn’t stop her, especially late.”

Turners and Frontier will meet in the postseason for the first time since 2010’s semifinal, a 3-0 Red Hawks sweep.

“We’re out to get Frontier now,” said Dillensneider of the semifinal matchup. “If we pull it all together, I think we have a good chance against them.”

Rollins agreed with her setter’s assertion.

“I think we can give them a run for their money,” she offered.