Coming into Thursday night’s Section 5 Class D Regional final between Lyons and Honeoye, the two teams were very evenly matched, both entering the contest with the exact same record of 21-0.
But a closer look reveals that the Lions have only been taken past the third game twice this season, having swept their opponents 19 times. Lyons changed that number to 20 Thursday evening as they brought the Bulldogs’ perfect season to an end with a 25-20, 25-19, 25-17 sweep.
Lyons slowly started to build their lead as Ryenn Smith scored back-to-back points with soft drop shots that were untouched, giving the Lions an 11-7 lead. But the Bulldogs still had some fight left in them as they growled their way back to knot the score at 12-12 and again at 13-13. That proved to be as close as the Bulldogs would get in the first game before falling, 25-20.
In the second game Honeoye took a brief 2-1 lead but the Lions came roaring back to a commanding 8-2 lead before Honeoye coach Linda Cup called a timeout. But the break didn’t stop the bleeding as Lyons extended its lead to 14-5 when Sammy Stone served up an ace for the Lions.
The Bulldogs ran off four unanswered points and closed the gap to 15-9. Lyons went on to widen the margin to 18-13, but Hailey Cornish served up three winners in a row for Honeoye and suddenly the Bulldogs were only trailing by two 18-16. Honeoye could get no closer two points as Lyons went on to a 25-19 win.
“The run we had in the second game where we got five or six points, we served really tough and they couldn’t get the sets where they wanted to,” Lyons coach Matt Barr said. “And then our defense just took over.”
After a 5-5 tie in the third game things started to look up for the Bulldogs as they took their second, third and fourth leads of the night at 6-5, 7-6 and 8-7. But that would prove to be the final time of a record season for the Bulldogs that they would lead. Lions tied things at 8-8, 9-9, 11-11, 12-12 and 14-14 before moving out to a 23-16 lead and finally winning 25-17.
“We just wanted to play our best and play together as a team and I think we did that,” said Bulldogs senior captain Emily Otiso. “They are really good at getting everything off, regardless of where the ball is they will get it off. They are really good at that.”
“I’m tired, I’m happy and excited that we won and I just want to keep winning,” said Ryenn Smith, who is captain and the only senior on the Lyons roster. “If we pass and keep our intensity up there’s no way we can lose.”
Page 2 of 2 - Lyons junior middle hitter Gator Shields said the key to not letting Honeoye back into the game was focusing on one point at a time.
“We wanted to win and go as far as we could,” Shields said. “Coach told us (during the third game timeout ) not to get too stressed out and take it point by point and not to think about the last play, but the play ahead of us.”
Barr was pleased with his team’s effort against a strong Honeoye squad.
“I really thought we served and played very good defense today,” Barr said. “Honeoye has a really good team and is capable of going on some good runs, they have some really good servers. That’s what happened in the second game. Our philosophy is if we can get it to 20-20 , or any lead in the twenties we like our chances. We play games of five all the time in practice, just to get in those situations. So I told the girls just think of it as 19-19 and the first one to six.
“We responded, we had a really good dig in that run. I think the difference was when we hit the ball really hard they would get dig it wouldn’t deflate us at all and we would get another swing and we would come away with a point more often than not. “
Lyons was led on the night by Taylor DiSanto with 33 assists and Ryenn Smith with 18 kills, 9 digs. While teammates Gator Shields collected 9 kills and 7 digs along with Hannah Lester who had 3 blocks.
Lyons moves on to the Far West Regional Saturday at Webster Schroeder High School where they will take on Ellicottville (22-0) of Section 6. The game is scheduled for noon.
For the Bulldogs, the success of the season is not lost with the result of this game.
“We knew a lot about them, we knew their defense was the same as ours.” said Bulldogs head coach Linda Cup, who has been a that post since 1990. “We knew we needed to play well and to beat them we had to play our game and play the best we could, stay confident, calm and have fun. We already had the championship and it’s awesome to be at this level of the tournament. It’s tough to end your season with a loss. We just kept thinking of all the teams that never got here and how we were representing schools of our size. We are really proud of that.”