(written, shot, edited and narrated for Somerville Patch)
The Cambridge Rindge & Latin Falcons overcame a five-point deficit in the first game of their girls’ volleyball match Wednesday against Somerville High and never looked back, sweeping the Highlanders in three games at the War Memorial Gym in Cambridge.
After the Highlanders and Falcons split the first 12 points of their first game Wednesday, the Highlanders built the only sizable lead they would have all match. Falcons mistakes – including two serves into the net and two hits out of bounds – helped the Highlanders to a 7-1 run that pushed their lead all the way to 13-8. The run finally ended when senior setter Brittany Cassidy served into the net – an error common to many Highlanders Wednesday.
The Highlanders maintained their lead with a spike off a Falcons overpass by middle-hitter Jacqueline Homsi and two kills from powerful outside-hitter Nicole Genard.
But Cambridge remained undaunted, using two late-game, three-point runs to get back in the game. Senior Kayla Sena – their most powerful hitter – scored two points in the first run to cut Somerville’s lead to two, and junior captain Lydia Vital capped the second run with an ace for a 21-20 Cambridge lead.
“The problem was, weren’t putting the ball away,” Cambridge coach Kelley Leary said. “The setting was a little tight, so we just adjusted that, and that was all we needed to do.”
A third three-point run clinched the first game, with Cambridge winning 25-22 after Somerville senior Zhanea Nicholson was penalized for carrying.
Volleyball is a game of momentum. When it switches sides, leads can evaporate in a hurry. And once it’s gone, reclaiming it can be impossible.
“We had the energy for most of Game 1,” said Somerville coach Steven Walker, adding: “I don’t know if we thought we could just keep the momentum going or what, but it faded quickly in Game 2.”
Losing a winnable first game appeared to demoralize the Highlanders, and the Falcons took advantage, jumping out to a 9-3 lead to start the second game. Four of those points came off Highlander errors.
The Highlanders closed the gap to 9-6, more from Falcon errors than well-executed offense. And the Falcons reasserted themselves with two kills and an ace from Sena to push their lead back to six.
“Kayla just usually stays calm and is able to be that calming influence on the court,” Leary said.
Although two kills from Somerville senior Lorenza Etienne kept the score close, the Highlanders could only cut two points off their deficit over the next 12. The Falcons then closed out the second game with a 7-0 run, highlighted by two aces from senior captain LizMary Mazzarella to win the game, 25-13.
The Highlanders came out just as flat to start the third game, with Etienne’s kill their only score of the first five. Mazzarella helped set the pace early again for the Falcons, recording a weak-side kill and later dropping in two more aces to put the Falcons up 9-4. Leary said Mazzarella is often the one driving the Falcons forward.
“Liz is really big for doing that,” Leary said. “She just boosts the momentum on the court.”
The Falcons won their final game 25-12. Of the other eight points the Highlanders scored, the majority came from Falcon errors. Genard and senior Gabriella Valenzuela each had one kill, and Cassidy added a tip-in.
The Falcons, meanwhile, got two aces from sophomore Tamika Vincent late in the game, then won when Genard hit into the net on match point.
Genard finished the game with six kills and five hitting errors. Etienne finished with seven and four.
The Highlanders never regained the energy, communication or execution of the first game. They constantly looked unprepared and out of position on serves and hits, staring at each other as balls bounced between them. Their judgment looked off, as they repeatedly went after balls clearly heading out of bounds.
“As a cohesive unit, it was probably one of our worst games,” Walker said, calling the communication “nonexistent” and being unable to name a single element of Wednesday’s game he liked.
Cambridge improved to 10-3 overall this season, with a perfect 7-0 record in the GBL. Somerville fell 11-4, and 6-2 in the GBL.