Maine East keeps conference title hopes alive with win over Highland Park
By: Luke Drase
Sometimes a bad loss is what a team needs to hit the reset button on their season.
Just one day after losing to Maine West, in what was probably their worst game of the season, Maine East bounced back Wednesday night to hand Highland Park their first conference loss of the season, winning 26-24, 25-22.
“I think what happened yesterday (Tuesday) is what we needed to spark some energy and give us some life for the rest of the season,” said Maine East coach Kevin Bohn.
“Unfortunately it had to come to a beatdown from Maine West but they came out a completely different team. All aspects of our play today was ten times better.”
Wednesday evening’s game was originally scheduled to take place on Thursday, but the quick turnaround seemed to work in the Blue Demons favor.
Maine East jumped jumped out to a massive 12-1 advantage which forced Highland Park to use both of their timeouts.
Senior defensive specialist and captain Geleen Reyes: “Yesterday was such a low energy game that we wanted to put behind us. So today we started off loud with all this energy, we came in wanting the win, and we got out to a big lead.”
The Blue Demons were paced early on by, Chris Kotsifas, who had three kills within the first four points, and setter/right side Kim Sergey, whose serving and setting kept the Highland Park out of system offensively, and out of sorts defensively.
Bohn said: “She’s just a phenomenal all-around player, she really does it all. Defensively, she’s a tremendous setter who really distributes the ball well, and she can swing. The way that she gets kills and sees the block is rare for a right side hitter. We are very lucky to have her, she had an outstanding game.
However, Maine East was not able to keep Highland Park down for long. Back to back stuff blocks settled the Giants down to make it a 13-4 game, and slowly but surely, Highland Park started to crawl their way back.
Highland Park eliminated the passing mistakes that plagued them early in the set and forced Maine East to call their first timeout at 15-10.
Despite not maintaining the double digit lead as they did early in the set, Maine East still seemed in control of the game as they cruised along to 21-16 advantage.
Then with the Blue Demons within reach of taking the the opening set at 23-19, Highland Park earned five gutsy points to take a 24-23 lead after being down as many as 11 points earlier in the set.
With both teams out of timeouts, the opening set would rely solely on the players on the floor. Somehow, Maine East grabbed the momentum back, winning the last three points to take set one 26-24.
Bohn said: I just told the setters to get the ball to whoever was feeling it. There are certain rotations that I’m more confident in than others and we got lucky having those rotations when it mattered most. They’ve been better in those pressure situations and luckily we pulled it out.”
Based on the ending of set one, there was a feeling that Highland Park would come out of the break strong, and return the favor to Maine East, but the Blue Demons held their nerve after nearly blowing set one and raced out to a 10-6 advantage.
Highland Park chipped away at the lead yet again, this time though their defense as their block gave the Maine East attackers problems while Kotsifas was in the back row, similar to their previous matchup.
With Ireland Hieb at the service line for Highland Park down 16-14, Coach Bohn called a preemptive time out to try and freeze her, but the strategy proved to be futile, as Hieb went on another serving run to give the Giants the 17-14 lead.
The match continued to go back and forth until Maine East finally got the breakthrough they were looking for at 21-20 when setter Erika Christiansen blocked a strong Hieb attack straight back to the floor.
“It was such a sweet feeling,” said Bohn.
“I saw the look on Erika’s face after she got that stuff and I knew exactly what was running through her mind that we finally got her, and getting that stuff, at that moment does so much for us and we needed it, we were due.”
Maine East rode that wave of momentum to the finish, winning the second set 25-22 and handing Highland Park their first conference loss of the season.
Despite the loss, Highland Park still controls their own destiny in the conference. If the Giants win their three remaining matches they will still be crowned CSL North champions.
Maine East will have the week off before resuming conference play Thursday, October 12 with a home match against GBN. Highland Park will look to rally as they return home to face Vernon Hills on the same day.