The road leading to a Section 5 Class DD title came to an end for the No. 2 seed Lyons girls volleyball team at the hands of the No. 1 Geneseo Blue Devils, losing in four games (25-23, 25-17, 26-28, 25-21) Saturday afternoon.
Ironically the two teams met exactly one year earlier for Section 5 Class DD title at Bloomfield High School as the Lions came in as the No. 1 seed and Geneseo No. 2. The Lions walked away with a three-game sweep (25-13, 25-19, 25-16).
That was then, and this is now.
After falling behind 4-1 in the first game, the Lions (15-4) came back to tie the score at 4-4 after senior Hannah Lester picked up a block and then added one of her five kills on the day. Geneseo (19-0) tied the game at five on a block by Jordan Welch. Lyons then opened up a 13-8 lead prompting Blue Devils coach Chris Butera to call his first timeout of the day. Geneseo cut the gap to 15-12 after junior Libero Abbey Anderson served up an ace that touched nothing but hardwood, causing Lyons coach Samantha Converse to call her first timeout of the afternoon. The game went on to be tied at 17-17, 18-18, 20-20, 21-21, 22-22 and 23-23 before the Blue Devils finally won 25-23.
In the second game, the Blue Devils took an early 2-0 lead, but Lyons came right back to tie the game at 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4, before the Geneseo opened up a 7-4 lead. The Lyons came clawing back once more knotting the contest at 8-8 and then at 11-11. After Lyons batted the ball into the rafters going down 12-11 the Blue Devils went on a 7-0 scoring run as Maggie Wheeler served up seven winners in a row surging to their biggest lead of the day 19-11. The Lions managed to score only six more point in the second game as they found themselves down 2-0, as the Blue Devils went on to a 25-17 win and looked like they were on their way to a three-game sweep of their own.
The third game started out much the same way with the two teams going back and forth a point or two at a time being tied at 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7 and 9-9. The Blue Devils took a three-point lead 12-9 at which point Converse called a timeout. Geneseo went on after the timeout to extend its lead to 17-13, but the Lyons came back with three-straight points as Gator Shields nailed two of her 14 kills on the day cutting the margin to 17-16, which led to a Blue Devil timeout. Lyons tied the game at 17-17 when senior Taylor DiSanto picked up a block and then gave Lyons the lead, 18-17 when she got a kill of her own. The third went on to be tied another eight times before Lyons finally won 28-26.
Page 2 of 2 - As the fourth game got underway it looked as if the Lyons had run out of gas, as the Blue Devils jumped out to an 8-2 lead. Converse called a timeout, regrouped her troops and the Lions came away from the bench and fought back to a one-point deficit trailing only 10-9. Geneseo took a four-point advantage, 13-9, as junior outside hitter Rachael Nicholls, who would later be named tourney MVP served up an ace. Her team then went on to a 20-14 lead. The Lions refused to give up as they cut into the Blue Devils' lead at 20-17, prompting a Butera timeout. Lyons tied the battle again at 20-20 and 21-21. Geneseo took its final lead of the day when a Nicholls kill just caught the back of the rear out of bounds line. The Blue Devils went on to a 25-21 victory.
"I told the girls to always touch the floor before the ball does, go out there and play their game and be positive," said Converse, Lyons' first-year coach. "Coming in as a coach, I didn't want to just teach skills they were going to learn on the court, I wanted them to learn something for life. Coming in I wanted them to know being on time for practice, being competitive, but also being positive with that."
"We knew our team was different, and their team was different (from last year)," said Butera. "I was just hoping that it wasn't going to be the same result as last year. We knew that it was two totally different teams playing each other and if we play our game and did what we did all year long to get us to that point then we would have a shot. We knew we couldn't go from getting beat 3-0 to just sweeping them. Lyons is an excellent program and it showed tonight. Over the past decade they have won six or seven section titles. We really liked our chances. This is the third year we've made the finals in a row and I told the girls of all the teams I've coached that this is the best shot we had. Lyons came out in the third game and started getting the ball to their big hitter Abbie (Shields) and she started heating up and she made a difference. We just had to weather the storm and earn points when we could."
Lyons was led on the day by Shields with 14 kills, 19 digs and a block, along with DiSanto, who dished up 30 assists, nine digs and six kills. Both Shields and DiSanto were named to the all-tourney team.