It went quickly from treat to trick for the Belmont High School Volleyball squad on Halloween.
After building a comfortable two-set advantage in the opening-round playoff match held at Belmont’s Wenner Field House on Friday, Oct. 31, the Marauders saw that lead turn into a pumpkin by a young but talented Danvers High squad which stormed back to tie match.
During the one-minute break before playing the critical fifth set, Belmont senior co-captain Alexandra Davis recalled how “we all took a deep breath and told ourselves ‘first to eight in the fifth’,” referring to reach the eight point mark first in the abbreviated 15-point final set.
“We work a lot on mentally preparing ourselves to push through hard times. We said we had to stay in ‘green light’, always ready to go,” said the middle blocker.
And that little bit of mental stability allowed Belmont to pull out a nail biter against the Falcons, 3 sets to 2 (25-19, 25-21, 18-25, 16-25, 15-9) in the first round of the MIAA Div. 2 North sectionals.
“We wanted this game more and came out aggressive and didn’t miss while [Danvers] didn’t know how to handle the pressure,” said Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture.
Friday was Belmont’s first playoff win since 2010.
Today, Tuesday, Nov. 4, the seventh-seed Belmont takes the short trip to Arlington to meet Arlington Catholic HS in the quarterfinals match beginning at 6 p.m.
The 16-5 Marauders will attempt to bag the second-seed Cougars (18-3) which won its first round game with Tewksbury High, 3-0. AC is ranked 17th in the Boston Globe Volleyball Top 20. Leading the Cougars are junior middle blocker Demi Fogarty and sophomore Monica Royo from the back.
Belmont opened the Halloween matinee with impressive serving by junior opposite hitter Kabita Das and the combined blocking from junior Kately Messer (who ended the set with a block winner) and Davis, who had a critical block point when the score was tied at 17.
“We came into the game wanting this so we came out strong so we could set the tone of the game. So I thought it was my part to take charge,” said Davis.
“I’ve been working on my blocks and my timing a lot. It was a great feeling getting them,” she said.
The second set was tied at 18 (after Danvers went on a 11 to 4 run) when senior Rosy Fitzgerald had a kill from junior setter Faye Regan and a block winner and senior co-captain Becki Sandvos hit a slicing winner to push the score to 24-21 with Fitzgerald getting the final set-winning shot.
In the third set, Danvers came out “with nothing to lose and they started playing more aggressively,” said Couture.
“We were a little slow to their play, and they didn’t let up through the fourth set,” said the head coach.
Tied at 11 in the third, Danvers’ forwards collected a number of kills while net violations vexed Belmont. And despite Das’ four service aces to open the fourth set, 5-0, the Marauders soon found themselves tied at 12 before Danvers went on a 13-4 run to win the set.
“You could tell on our faces that we lost a lot of energy, so we were playing down to their team’s level that we have struggled with before,” said Alexander.
“They got into our heads and caused a bit of confusion, and we started to doubt ourselves especially with the net mistakes,” said Couture.
Between the penultimate and final sets, Couture told the team to relax and play that same game as they opened the contest.
“During timeouts we were saying that we had to play at our speed and push ourselves,” said Alexander.
Down 5-6, Das won a point off a block, Sandvos dipped a ball between Danvers’ front and back line and Messer had a critical block winner to give the Marauders an 8-6 lead as the teams changed ends of the court.
Now it was Danvers’ turn to tighten up, committing service and shooting error that allowed Belmont to race ahead to a 12-9 advantage. Senior libero and co-captain Sam Nelson made one of her numerous dig saves resulting in a Danvers hitting error. Belmont finished the game and, by the skin of their teeth, is playing today.