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Courtney Hankins, right, of Newton Falls blocks a shot by Brookfield’s Nikole Husnick (12) as the Warriors’ Bailey Hackett (17) watches Tuesday night in an MVAC Gray Tier match. The Tigers won in four sets.
BROOKFIELD — The ebbs and flows of emotions throughout a high school volleyball match can produce breathless action and lengthy runs.
Newton Falls staved off host Brookfield’s final run to capture a 3-1 victory in a Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference-Gray Tier matchup.
“The girls always find a way every year to give me a little more gray hair,” joked Tigers’ coach Kristina Baker, whose team improved to 4-1 overall. “Brookfield has a real good team, and they started to make some plays and we started not making some plays at that time. So it kind of caught up with us. We’ve got to execute when it comes crunch time and we didn’t do that in the third game.”
Newton Falls won 25-16, 25-23, 20-25 and 25-19.
The Tigers used a 13-3 run in the first game to break a 7-all tie as Courtney Hankins and Lexi Drake had a pair of kills to lead the spurt.
Members of the Brookfield volleyball celebrate a point Tuesday night against Newton Falls.
“Courtney Hankins has come a long way, and we’re expecting a lot out of her this season and tonight showed how far she has come,” Baker said. “She’s a little mentally tougher and has learned the intricacies in the game. She’s coming out with a mission this year. She wants to play every time she walks into the gym.”
The Tigers used the momentum to spark an 8-2 cushion early in the second game.
“In the beginning of the match, we started off half asleep, at least it felt like it,” said Warriors’ coach Brooke Hiner, whose squad dropped to 1-2 overall. “We were just off. We started to pick it up midway through the second game and we were energized and ready to go from there. Unfortunately, that’s not good enough when you play a Newton Falls team.”
Brookfield rallied from its deficit, tying the score at 12, 21 and 22 and then took its first lead of the game, 23-22, when the Tigers were called for a net violation. But Newton Falls scored the final three points.
“We led 23-22 and then kind of let that one slip away,” Hiner said. “We didn’t hang our heads in the third game, but we were a bit sluggish until we got back in sync a bit. We kept coming back, and once we hyped each other up and got excited for each other, we turned the corner with our play. That’s something we need to do from the beginning, and if we had that energy and focus from the start, we could’ve won this (match).”
Newton Falls seemed prepared to make a short night of things by springing to an 11-3 lead in the third game, led by junior Olivia Valot, who had a tip-kill and served up three aces. Breanna Hutson also had a pair of kills in the quick start, and it appeared as though the Tigers would earn the sweep.
But the Warriors clawed right back, scoring 11 of the next 13 points to take a 14-13 lead. Anna Richart had three kills in the surge and added another one to tie the score at 15. Her ace gave the hosts an 18-16 lead, but Newton Falls tied the game at 19. Richart added two more kills, Nikole Husnick had one and Lauren Shingledecker had another as Brookfield closed with a 6-1 run.
“I think we definitely took our foot off the gas some,” said Hankins, who finished with 20 kills and six blocks. “We stopped hitting at them. They have a good offense, so we had to be down and ready when they started coming back on us. But the win sets the tone for the rest of the year in the league.”
In the fourth game, Newton Falls broke away from a 5-4 lead to produce a 14-6 cushion, but the Warriors kept coming back.
Brookfield got within 18-6 on the strength of two kills and a block by middle hitter Bailey Hackett.
However, Haskins was just heating up. She had two kills, two blocks and two aces in the closing stretch. Her two aces ended the match.
Valot supplied 24 points and 34 assists and libero Atlanta Spahlinger had 10 points and 28 digs. Hutson added 12 kills and Drake had eight.
“We have a lot of well-rounded girls with solid defensive pieces,” Baker said. “They’re making plays and getting scrappy when we need to. My libero, Atlanta Spahlinger, is making big plays out there. We try to read as much as we can and just play until we here the whistle.
“I take a lot of pride in our defense because you can’t run an offense without a defense. Those girls work hard in defense and serve receive every day in practice and they know how important that part of the game is to me and our team.”
Richart had 11 kills, Husnick and Hackett added seven apiece. Hackett also had four blocks.
“Anna and Nikole Husnick are powerful and smart hitters and when they get it going, it’s fun to watch,” Hiner said. “Bailey Hackett is the powerhouse. If she’s on, everyone is on with her. She’s also a very strong blocker.”
Also for Brookfield, O’Brien had 31 assists and Maddy Evans contributed 40 digs.
“Bailey O’Brien played a great match,” Hiner said. “She was hustling and diving all over the floor. She made sure she got every second ball and got her hands up on it.”