Athol rolls through Mt. Greylock, 3-0
ATHOL — Momentum can be your best friend or your worst enemy in the world of sports, and girls’ volleyball is no exception.
Third-seeded Athol High School won a close first set and rode the momentum from that victory to easily take the next two en route to a 25-21, 25-11, 25-10 quarterfinal WMass Division III Girls’ Volleyball Tournament win over 11th-seeded Mt. Greylock Regional High School Monday night in Mallett Gymnasium.
After a back-and-forth start to the first set, Athol (19-1) actually looked like it took control at the midpoint when it had built a 13-8 lead. At that point, Mt. Greylock’s Hope Willis came to life, scoring a kill to get her team the service before helping as Kiara Garofalo served six straight points. That run included three aces from Garofalo and another kill from Willis. The teams traded a few points and the Mounties (10-10) closed to within five points of clinching the set with a 20-19 lead. That’s when Athol made its move. A kill from Sarah Crino tied the score for Athol, and Annie MacLean (two kills, 13 digs, two aces) took the serve for the Red Raiders and won four straight points to put Athol up 24-20. Mt. Greylock would get one point back to try and stave off the first-set loss, but a Tessa Neverett block sealed the first-set and gave Athol full control of the match.
“To win the first set is always a huge deal,” Neverett said afterward. “It gives you confidence going into the remaining sets. It took a lot of players that are very big assets to this team, and it’s nice that we can all work together to pull off that win.”
Athol coach Bernie Merron admitted that her team has been a slow starter at times during the season, but getting that first-set victory can set the tone for the match.
“We’ve always been, all season, a slow-starting team,” she began. “They hung in and it went back-and-forth, back-and-forth, but our girls came through. And that win built confidence and gave us the momentum.”
The remaining two sets were never in doubt. Neverett served five straight points early in the second set to give Athol a lead it never relinquished. Salmond collected five kills in the second set, while MaRyea Jennings (four aces on the night) closed out the second set with a service ace. In the third set, MacLean served five straight points early, and Krystal Campbell added six straight service wins toward the middle as the Red Raiders built a 18-5 lead at one point and cruised to the win. Athol missed on just five serves all night, as opposed to Mt. Greylock, which had five service errors in the second set alone, finishing the match with nine service errors.
Salmond finished the night with eight kills, two aces and five digs, while Neverett collected eight kills, 17 digs and two aces. This marks the third straight autumn that the Red Raiders have been tournament qualifiers, but it’s the team’s first win in nearly a decade. Neverett, a junior who was a freshman three years ago when the team first made the tournament, said the growth of the team has been tremendous, leading to the win.
“It’s amazing to see how far our team has come from then until now,” she gushed. “Everything has been such an improvement and it makes me so happy to see how much we’ve built and to see us finally getting somewhere.”
The Red Raiders move on to play second-seeded Sabis International Charter School, which came back from two sets down Monday to beat Lenox High School. Sabis has already earned a three-set win over the Red Raiders earlier this season. Those teams will play in a semifinal match Wednesday night in Springfield.