No. 2 Beaver takes down Derry in WPIAL volleyball quarterfinals
Alix Ellis wanted to do anything possible to turn around the Derry girls volleyball team's performance.
The senior right-side hitter didn't want the Trojans' best postseason run in eight years to end with a dud. Giving up the first 10 points to open the match wasn't how Ellis envisioned seventh-seeded Derry starting its WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal match with second-seeded Beaver.
“Personally, I don't ever put my head down and think we're down 10-0 and we're going to lose,” Ellis said. “I fight to the last point. … It's still hard. There's still a little piece of you that's like ‘It's 10-0. We need to get back. We need to get one pass and one hit to get the momentum back.' ”
The Trojans never fully found a way to recapture their offensive magic during a 3-1 (25-11, 25-17, 24-26, 25-11) loss. Beaver's serving and hitting prowess allowed the Bobcats to advance to the semifinals for the second straight year.
More important to Ellis was that Derry (10-5) avoided being swept. Trailing 4-0 in the third set following an attack error, things appeared to be headed toward a quick ending.
The Trojans struggled to pass, rating a 1.3 out of 3 for the night.
“We didn't pass well all night long,” Derry coach Brock Smith said. “You can't be in a match passing as poorly as we did.”
Both teams went back and forth in the third set, with the Trojans tying the score at 24 following a Bobcats' service error. Beaver freshman setter Eden McElhaney was whistled for two double contacts, giving Derry a 26-24 win.
Ellis led the Trojans with 11 kills, while Kamryn Kelly provided seven.
“Hitters made better decisions,” Smith said. “We had a couple balls going our way and served better so they couldn't run their middles.”
The Trojans had the fourth set tied at 11 before an attack error followed by a Mia Dodds kill put Beaver up for good.
McElhaney, overall, did an excellent job of filling in for senior setter Courtney Lambert, who left the match with a leg injury during the first set. It was Lambert who dug Derry such a deep deficit. Lambert started the match by recording an ace that put Beaver (15-1) ahead 4-0. Two kills from Mia Dodds and another from Alexa Mamone and two attack errors from Derry stretched the lead to 10.
“I think we served well, but I think they needed time to warm up, too,” Beaver coach Charlene Horwatt said. “It was a combination of us making them play out of the gate and not serving the ball and letting them off the hook.”
Beaver didn't take its foot off the gas, racing away with the first set 25-11. The Bobcats relied on solid all-around hitting.
Macy McElhaney led Beaver with 13 kills, while Dodds and Mamone added 11 each.
“We were always taught, coming out for this game we had to block well and always be in position,” Ellis said. “In the first game, we didn't do that. If we would have executed that more, it would have been closer.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.