Yorktown’s Ashley Rock leaped at the net and thwarted 5-foot-11 Hayfield middle blocker Alex Lambert’s attack with a booming block-and-kill. Moments later, Rock followed a point-scoring slam, which knocked a Hayfield player backward, with a finesse kill. She even scored on an attack that contacted a Hayfield player before hitting a light fixture. The Yorktown volleyball team was close to closing out the defending National District champion Hawks and Rock was finding different ways to lead the Patriots’ emotional charge.
Up two sets to none, Rock’s 11th kill of the third set gave Yorktown a 24-23 lead and put the Patriots within one point of sweeping the team they lost to in last season’s district title match. Yorktown exuded confidence, was in the midst of a 7-1 run and needed only to make one more play.
But then everything fell apart.
HAYFIELD, on the verge of suffering its first loss since Aug. 30, stormed back, scoring three straight points to win the set and three straight sets to win the match, 3-2 (21-25, 22-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-7), on Oct. 18 at Yorktown High School. With the victory, the Hawks (11-1 overall, 4-0 district) likely secured the No. 1 seed in the district tournament, giving them homecourt advantage throughout. Hayfield has won 11 consecutive matches after dropping its opener against West Springfield.
Last season, Yorktown won the regular season meeting between the two teams at Hayfield Secondary School. The Hawks, in their first season in the National District, won the rematch in the district tournament final at YHS.
"We’re very enthused right now and we’re ready to play Yorktown again," Lambert said after Monday’s match. "This was just a déjà vu of last year. We brought our ‘A’ game in the last three games. … We woke up and we knew we were the better team."
After winning the first two sets, Yorktown trailed 20-13 in the third before mounting a comeback. After a Yorktown timeout, the Patriots scored 11 of the next 14 points, including six kills by junior middle blocker Rock.
"I do think [Rock] was fired up at the end of that third game," Yorktown head coach Brittanie Behar said. "I think the first half of that third game, we were flat. I think we play well as an emotional team. We play well as a getting-so-excited-it’s-ridiculous team and we really feed on that energy. When we start to let it go, things get harder on us."
Things got harder on the Patriots when they failed to put away the Hawks in the third set. A Lambert kill tied the game at 24. Shannen Cochraham gave the Hawks a 25-24 lead with a kill before Lambert won the set with an ace. From there, Yorktown was never the same.
"We made some unforced errors," Behar said. "Volleyball is such a game of confidence. It looked like something just shook our confidence. I think that we need to take away all of the good things that we did in that match. It’s likely we will see them again in a couple weeks in the districts and we’ll focus on all the things that we did well."
One thing Yorktown didn’t do very well is slow down the all-district duo of Lambert and outside hitter Jessie Kolden, who each finished with 22 kills. Cochraham added 12 for the Hawks. With Hayfield leading the deciding fifth set 6-5, the Hawks closed the match on a 9-2 run, including a combined five points from Lambert and Kolden.
While Hayfield waiting until the last moment to step up against Yorktown, head coach Jeff Berggren said the Patriots had his team’s attention long before the match started.
"Yorktown," Berggren said, "has been our focus pretty much for the season so far."
Rock led Yorktown with 21 kills and seven blocks. She also had 11 digs. Katie Rock finished with 12 digs and 10 kills, Eva Muszynski had 12 digs and five kills and Lauren Sims had eight kills. Taylor Brown recorded 24 digs and Kaley Burlingame dished out 43 assists and tallied 13 digs.
MONDAY’S MATCH wasn’t the first time Yorktown struggled with finishing an opponent. The Patriots won the first two sets of their Sept. 23 meeting with South County, one of the top teams in the Northern Region, but lost the final three. After beating Falls Church soundly in sets one and two on Oct. 14, the Patriots won a closely contested third set against the struggling Jaguars.
"We obviously had energy the first two games [against Hayfield] — we won and we were excited," Katie Rock said. "I think we need to work on finishing that third game."
Yorktown (11-3, 4-1) has matches against Wakefield and Stuart before the start of the district tournament — and possibly another chance to face Hayfield.
"This game doesn’t even matter," Ashley Rock said Monday. "It’s regular season. All it does is seed us for the district tournament. We’re going to play them in two weeks."
If the teams play agani, the Hawks will be ready.
"I think we know what to expect now," Lambert said, "so when the playoffs come, we’ll definitely see them and we’ll beat them in three."