The Yorktown volleyball team entered the Northern Region tournament having traveled a month-long bumpy road. The Patriots lost a pair of regular season matches before surviving a five-game battle against Edison in the National District semifinals on Nov. 3. The following night, Yorktown lost to Hayfield in the district title match for the second consecutive season.
On Monday, the Patriots split the first four games of their regional tournament match against West Springfield. Nothing came easy. Yorktown overcame a 9-2 deficit to win the opener and traded blows with the Spartans during the next three. Facing a fifth game with the season on the line, Ashley Rock and her Yorktown teammates grew tired of doing things the hard way.
"When we [beat] Stuart [on Nov. 3], the fifth game was ridiculous," Rock said. "Our energy was as high as it’s ever been this season. We ended up beating them [handily]. We were like, ‘Let’s have a repeat. Let’s just crush them. The match has been pretty close so far, let’s pull ahead and be the team we can be.’"
Yorktown jumped out to a 9-3 lead, Rock recorded six of her career-high 30 kills in the deciding game and the Patriots defeated the Spartans 3-2 (25-23, 19-25, 25-20, 24-26, 15-8) at YHS. Rock, a second-team all-region selection, called the loss to Hayfield in the district title match a "crusher." The junior middle blocker responded with a career-best performance that included 15 digs, four aces and four blocks, helping advance Yorktown past the first round of regionals for the third time in four seasons.
"This postseason, she’s played fantastically," Yorktown head coach Brittanie Behar said. "She’s played well all year, but you can really see how much she wants it and how much she wants to come out and be strong."
Early in game one, it appeared Yorktown hadn’t recovered from the loss to Hayfield. West Springfield jumped out to a 9-2 advantage, leading to a Yorktown timeout. The Patriots responded with eight straight points and won the opener 25-23. The victory came against a Spartans team that entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Patriot District.
"It was scary at first when" West Springfield started strong, Yorktown senior libero Taylor Brown, a first-team all-district selection, said. "You can’t breathe because you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ We worked so hard all season and for us to lose in the first round of regionals would be really hard. We joined together on the court and we just knew this was a team we could beat."
Brown finished with 11 digs and Lauren Dresser had 10 digs. Katie Rock totaled 15 kills, nine digs, one block and one ace, Eva Muszynski had four kills, two aces and six blocks and Kaley Burlingame dished out 50 assists and recorded 13 digs and four blocks.