(Lynnfield MA) “Exciting,” won’t do this match justice.
It was more than that…..and there was no letup in the exhilaration on both sides.
Ipswich (15-1) had two crunch-time rallies and defeated Lynnfield, 3-2, on Tuesday night.
The scores were; 25-21, 17-25, 25-23, 18-25, and 15-17.
Even the fifth game was tight and tense!
The Pioneers (15-3) had been swept 3-0 by the Tigers at Ipswich on September 29th.
But that was then. Lynnfield came into this game having won eight of nine and they were playing at home where they were 7-0.
The teams were tied at the top of the CAL Kinney Division with identical 11-1 records.
The Pioneers had won last year’s abbreviated Cape Ann League season and have a volleyball banner on the gymnasium wall indicating other CAL championships.
Both schools had fans in the house, and it was loud. It was so loud that at times you couldn’t even hear the loud music.
Both teams had big hitters and there were tons of hard-hit finishes.
Lynnfield’s junior Ella Gizmunt had a night of well setup power hits. The six-footer knows how to finish.
“We tried to avoid her,” said Ipswich coach Staci Sonke afterwards. “She’s their best player. She’s going to go somewhere and play D1. Our goal was to get the ball away from her as much as possible and make the rest of her team work for it.”
In Game One, Ipswich broke away from a 10-10 tie and led the rest of the way winning, 25-21.
I thought then of the early-season Ipswich sweep and thought maybe things were heading in that direction.
Wrong on that one. Lynnfield broke away from an 8-8 tie in Game Two and didn’t look back winning, 25-17.
Game Three held the first of the two crucial late-game Ipswich rallies. The Tigers were tied 1-1 and advanced to a seemingly comfortable, 22-17, advantage. But Lynnfield wouldn’t go away. They ran seven straight points with the Lynnfield side getting more and more involved as the Ipswich lead disappeared. Now down 23-22, the Tigers’ Ella Stein had a hard hit and a strong serve to restore the Ipswich lead, 24-23. A Claire O’Flynn spike finished the game in the Tigers favor.
Tired and demoralized? Ready to give up? Didn’t notice any of that from Lynnfield in Game Four. Led by Ella Gizmunt, the Pioneers left a 5-5 tie and went on to win, 25-18. Ella was everywhere on this one with serves, digs, and spikes. She also showed spike several times and then tapped to an open space.
The deciding 15-point Game Five had several early ties before Lynnfield moved ahead 13-9, riding the play of Ella Gizmunt.
The Tigers looked to be in serious trouble but somehow were able to turn the momentum their way and even things at, 13-13.
Lynnfield had match point at 14-13 and couldn’t get it done.
Ipswich had match point at 15-14 and also couldn’t get it done.
(Hopefully, you’re getting a sense of how remarkable this match was!)
With the score tied at, 15-15, Ipswich put two straight points together for the victory. Meghan Wallace had an important hit in the first Tigers’ point and Grace Sorensen served the match winner.
“It came down to who had the ball at the right time,” said Lynnfield coach Brent Ashley afterwards, “and who had experience in the big moment before.”
“It was such a competitive match,” said Ipswich senior Claire O’Flynn. “Either team could have won. Lynnfield played so hard.”
The victory gives Ipswich at least a share of the Kinney Division title in the Cape Ann League. A win on Wednesday night (Triton) gives Ipswich the title outright.
Lynnfield setter Sarah Foley had plenty to do with many of Ella Gizmunt’s best hits.
“I don’t think we could have done any better, honestly,” said Sarah afterwards. “We played our hearts out. We put everything out there tonight. Ella (Gizmunt) had a great game.”
“It was an intense match,” said Ipswich sophomore Tess O’Flynn. “Serving at the end was a bit scary.”
“What a battle this was,” added Coach Sonke. “It was between two really great teams. Ella (Gizmunt) was unreal.”
“It came down to who made fewer mistakes in the end,” Coach Sonke said. “and who could make the last serve and who could get the ball on the court.”
“Good for Ipswich,” said Coach Ashley. “They’re only 5-6 years old and they get to put a number on their banner if they win on Wednesday.”
The big change in the post-season is that there no longer are divisions. There are now power rankings which will determine the seedings.
What does that mean for Ipswich and Lynnfield? Both teams are in Division 4. Ipswich is ranked #1 and Lynnfield #2.
The chance of the two teams meeting in the North Division title match, as under the previous post-season setup, has been replaced by the enticing possibility of the two teams meeting in the state finals. Now wouldn’t that be something!
“I’m ready to see them in the state finals,” said Sarah Foley.
Who wouldn’t want to see that rematch?
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)