By LAUREN READ
A rocking gym, a tight back-and-forth match and a Mount Mansfield team looking to knock off top-seeded Champlain Valley Union and you have all the ingredients for an exciting Division I girls volleyball semifinal.
After the Cougars took the third set to extend the match Tuesday afternoon, CVU reasserted themselves in the fourth to earn the 3-1 win.
“I’m impressed and proud about how well they played tonight,” said CVU coach Jeanne Nauheimer. “They played with every ounce of heart that they have today.”
With the victory, the Redhawks set up a rematch of last year’s title game. CVU take on No. 1 Essex in the final on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Saint Michael’s College.
“It is honestly amazing,” said CVU senior Natalie Senior. “We put in the effort to get the win.”
After winning a tight first set, the Redhawks and the Cougars went back and forth in the second set. The two teams traded points as Mount Mansfield tried to tie the match.
“I told them the most drastic change on the court was how we were playing,” Nauheimer said. “I think they got a little nervous, instead of playing their game.”
CVU emerged with the 25-23 victory, but Mount Mansfield gained momentum and quickly jumped out to a lead in the third set. A five-point run in the middle of the set helped the Cougars secure the 25-14 win and extend the match.
But in the fourth, the Redhawks’ experience came into play as they regrouped and quickly pulled away for an early lead. CVU had two lengthy runs in the set to gain the edge, then Rayona Silverman sealed the victory with an ace on the final point.
“I think the key was really communication,” Senior said. “Wanting to win so bad and using everything we learned over the season. I am so proud.”
With a rematch on the docket for Saturday, CVU is looking to get some revenge for last year’s title game loss to the Hornets.
Essex also emerged the winner in the regular season matchup between the two teams.
“We are excited to play,” Nauheimer said. “This (win) helped us really get our level up for what we are going to need to beat Essex.”