Apr. 8—Triton girls volleyball had all the momentum. Trailing 2-0 after two sets, the Vikings stormed back and dominated Newburyport in the third and fourth to bring up the decisive fifth set.
Facing the prospect of a devastating defeat, Sydney Yim stepped to the line and put the Clippers on her back.
The Newburyport senior, one of the state's top players and a future Division 1 athlete at Purdue University, ran off five straight service points to give the Clippers a big early lead to start the fifth. The Vikings fought back and nearly forced the match into a deuce, but Newburyport was able to hang on for the 3-2 win in what will likely go down as the match of the year in the Cape Ann League.
"I think a big thing is I always tell the girls to be calm but competitive," Yim said of the last set. "So in that situation where we know we just lost those two sets that we shouldn't have lost because of simple mistakes, I was focused on keeping it calm and bringing it back to basics."
Yim, who moved to setter this season after originally dominating the league as a hitter the past two years, was at the center of everything the Clippers did on Wednesday. The senior finished with 22 assists, 15 kills and seven aces, and in addition to her crucial run of serves to start the fifth, she also ran off six straight points midway through the second set to give her team what initially looked like an insurmountable two set lead.
Newburyport won the first set 25-19 and took the second 25-15 after Yim's big rally broke a 13-13 tie, but once the third began Triton flipped the script and seized full control. The Vikings won the third set going away, 25-13, and in the fourth answered another big rally by Yim with a decisive run of points to win 25-17.
"I can't say enough about the energy that they brought tonight. That's what got us through it, they wanted it, and having four seniors on the team certainly helped," said Triton coach Karen Christian. "They were just willing everybody to do their best and we played like we know we can play."
Mia Berardino was a monster for Triton, leading all players with 17 kills and eight aces to go along with eight digs, and Molly Kimball led a brilliant Viking effort with a team-high 22 assists. Both played crucial roles as the Vikings clawed back into the final set, and even after Newburyport's Kate Sarra pulled out a mind-boggling dig and later a huge ace to make it 14-9, they along with Evelyn Pearson made one last rally to make it 14-13, nearly pushing the match to the brink.
Controversy nearly broke out on the final point, when Newburyport's apparent match-winning kill went right on the line and the referees were unable to come to an agreement on whether the ball was in or out. Unwilling to let the match end in such a fashion, the refs ruled a do-over and Newburyport wound up getting the win on the subsequent replay.
With the win Newburyport finishes the regular season 8-2 and goes into next week's CAL Tournament riding a seven-match winning streak. By clinching the No. 2 seed the Clippers also ensured their best finish in the league standings in program history, and now the team hopes to carry that momentum into the postseason.
"We've had our ups and downs and hopefully we can regroup this weekend and get back to work and focus on fixing some of those things we struggled with today," said Newburyport coach Lori Solazzo. "But I feel positive and I know that these girls want it, so I completely believe in them."
Triton finishes the regular season 5-5 and will go into the playoffs as the tournament's No. 5 seed. The official bracket and tournament schedule will be set on Thursday during the league's coaches meeting.
Newburyport 3, Triton 2
Kills: N — Sydney Yim 15, Ava Hartley 9, Abigail Gillingham 8; T — Mia Berardino 17, Jess Manganello 3, Evelyn Pearson 3
Blocks: N — Gillingham 4; T — Berardino 1, Emma Campbell 1, Emily Hoggard 1, Pearson 1
Assists: N — Yim 22; T — Molly Kimball 22
Aces: N — Yim 7; T — Kimball 8, Pearson 4, Berardino 3
Digs: N — Kate Sarra 13; T — Nicole Trotta 10, Berardino 8, Manganello 6
Newburyport (8-2): 25 25 13 17 15 — 3
Triton (5-5): 19 15 25 25 13 — 2