Turners eliminates Southwick

Recorder Staff
Thursday, November 02, 2017

TURNERS FALLS — The last time Turners Falls High School won a WMass Volleyball Tournament match, the current seniors on the team were still in fifth grade.

A slew of seniors put that streak to rest Thursday night, when fourth-seeded Turners set the tone early and won in three straight sets, 25-5, 25-14, 25-22, to knock off 13th-seeded Southwick-Tolland Regional High School in the first round of the WMass Division III girls’ tournament.

Turners Falls has qualified for the tournament in each of the past six years, but had failed to advance past their first match any of those years, losing in five sets in four of those matches. This year’s crop of seniors was determined to end that streak, according to captain Sienna Dillensneider.

“We always give a pep talk because it’s been the first time in six years that we’ve won a tournament game,” she said. “So this was kind of a big deal for us.”

Classmate Chloe Ellis said that qualifying for the tournament and winning a match was something the team had been thinking about since the start of the season: “We were nervous but we knew we had a good chance this year to make it to the second round. That was our goal, so that’s pretty great.”

Ellis was huge in calming those nerves right out of the gate, taking over at serve with the teams tied at 2-2 early in the first set. The senior went on a service run that saw her win 13 consecutive points, including five by ace, and several more that the Rams (10-11) were unable to return.

“I just tried to go back there and relax and get the ball over,” Ellis said of her big run. “We got our energy up, and once we get on a roll, we get pumped and start playing better.”

Ellis’ service streak lifted Turners Falls to a 15-2 advantage as Turners cruised to the first-set victory, featuring a pair of late kills by sophomore Dabney Rollins, to seal the win.

The second set started a bit more even, as the teams got into a back-and-forth affair, trading serve five times each with Turners holding a narrow, 8-6 edge. Hailey Bogusz rattled off three serves at that point to give Turners a 11-6 lead, but South Hadley came back and remained close. Ellis once again did the honors of pulling the hosts away when she took over serve with her team holding a 14-10 lead and served six straight points to move to 20-10. Turners eventually won the set 25-14.

Turners led the entire way in the third set as well, mounting a quick 5-0 lead. But Southwick hung around until four straight serves by Skylar Thompson and four more by Ellis helped Turners build a 22-12 lead. At that point, Turners coach Kelly Liimatainen began putting her bench players in and Southwick made a run to cut the deficit to 22-19, eventually getting as close as 23-21, before Turners closed out the match.

The Turners Falls defense played especially well in the win, never allowing Southwick to win more than two consecutive points on its serve until late in the third set.

Dillensneider finished with 12 assists, 3 aces and 2 kills, Ellis finished with 9 aces and 4 kills, and Rollins added 3 kills.

Turners Falls will next host a Monday-night quarterfinal match against the winner of today’s match between fifth-seeded Easthampton High School and 12th-seeded Athol High School.