Throwing an arm out got a little dangerous during Montville’s volleyball match with Madison on Tuesday afternoon.
Arms, legs, padded walls, anything hanging from the ceiling and the slick gym floor all came into play as the scrappy squads refused to give up a single point without a rally.
The host Mustangs started a little tentative, but were able to overcome both their nerves and previously undefeated Madison, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21.
Four-time undefeated NJAC-Independence champions, the Dodgers came in with quite a reputation. Then Montville (8-1) made the mistake of watching Madison warm up, and senior Bria Corham noted their “strong hits to where I play defense.” But the Mustangs’ back row — Corham, senior Cara Kirschner and libero Sydney Strickland — were up to the challenge on Tuesday, combining for 33 digs.
“We really wanted to be their first loss, and take it to three games,” added Corham, who also had eight kills and two blocks. “We were a little scrappy on offense, but their hits were hard.”
On the other side of the net, Madison senior Margy Taylor couldn’t quite put a name to what had gone wrong. The level of competition had definitely taken a step up, which caught the Dodgers (5-1) a little off guard. They also had a few “broken plays” which particularly disappointed Taylor.
“It’s never fun melting down,” said Taylor, who led Madison with 17 kills and five blocks. “They add up. Even if it’s only a couple, how many did we lose by? A couple.”
Where many of the Mustangs have been on teams together since second grade, the Dodgers are still building their on-court relationship with sophomore setter Katherine Clark. Seniors Kelly Quinn and Alise Bassolino also switched positions for the first time on Monday, with Quinn going outside and Bassolino to opposite, which Quinn thought might have upset communication and chemistry.
“Alise and Katherine had a tight knit connection outside,” Quinn said. “Maybe she didn’t feel comfortable. Maybe we weren’t set on our defense or rotations. … We had a group chat on our phones (Monday) night, and we were so pumped up. The excitement was there. We just didn’t execute.”
Neither team was able to establish much of a rhythm in the decisive third game until Montville senior Nicole Dvoretsky stepped to the service line with her team up by a point, 9-8. Mustangs junior Mia DePasquale put the ball down, and Madison coach Stephen Fenton called a timeout. Dvoretsky served aces on two of the next three points, putting the Mustangs up by five points.
But every time, the Dodgers scrambled back. An ace from Taylor and a Montville error tied the game at 18, then Corham had back-to-back kills. The tension and volume in the Mustangs’ cramped auxiliary gym rose until Braden finally ended the match with a kill.
“I’m so excited,” said Braden, who finished with 10 kills and 10 digs. “We knew their record, and knew a lot about them. We knew no one had ever gone to three games with them, let alone beat them. This is a great feeling.”