Eagles upset MRH in semifinals, finally fall to Principia
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Here’s what was supposed to happen in the Class 2 District 4 volleyball tournament this week at Brentwood High School:
Third-seeded BHS beats Cleveland NJROTC in the first round, then loses to No. 2 Maplewood-Richmond Heights in the semifinals. Because, let’s face it, the very young Eagles will crumble under the pressure of a do-or-die match with six-senior MRH. Besides, if BHS somehow gets to the district title match with top-seeded Principia, they wouldn’t stand a chance against the hard-hitting, seven-senior Panthers.
Here’s what actually happened: Brentwood quickly put away both Cleveland and MRH to reach the title match with Principia, then ran up an 11-4 lead in game 1. The Panthers finally rallied to win 25-19 but the Eagles came out swinging in the second game and led 9-4. Prin got ahead but the Eagles cut the gap to 21-19 before finally losing 25-20.
So Principia advanced to the state sectional for the second year in a row while Brentwood’s surprising season is finally over. What a wild ride. With a starting lineup that included three freshmen and a sophomore, BHS was supposed to be rebuilding but instead won a league championship and had Principia calling timeouts.
That didn’t stop senior Kate Gilmore’s eyes from tearing up as the Panthers celebrated in the BHS gym on Thursday. Her last game in three years of being a starter might have been her best. From the back row she somehow got underneath spike after spike and kept the ball in play. From the front row she erected roadblocks to Prin’s vicious hitting and answered kills with kills.
“I kind of came out knowing that this might be my last game.,” Gilmore said. “Not that I didn’t have faith in us, but just that they’re a really good team. You can only do so much to pick up No. 7 [Jessica Bayne]. I mean, she’s great. But I came out with that fire knowing that I needed to play like it was my last game.”
Said Brentwood coach Marissa DeHoyos, “We knew it was going to come to an end at some point, but it’s upsetting that tonight is the end. The huge leads that we had and then lost, that’s what really burns.”
Gilmore and Caroline Snare led a red-hot hitting attack that Maplewood had no answer for. But against Principia both teams could hit, so the Panthers won with stretches of flawless defense.
“I’m happy with how we played, I just wish it had clicked better for us,” said DeHoyos. “At times our passing was on, at times our setting was on, at times our hitting was on. But getting those three in a row . . .”
But DeHoyos was happy to see her young team’s maturity from when they lost to Principia in September.
“We came out on the court and we looked scared,” DeHoyos said of the September match. “We were like, ‘Oh, look who we’re playing.’ But their growth since then has been huge.”
BHS vs. MRH
In the district semifinal win over MRH, Snare and Gilmore led a hit parade that ended the match in two sets, 25-17, 25-15. They keyed runs of 11-2 in the first set and 16-2 in the second.
“We were putting the ball down,” said DeHoyos. “That’s what really helped us. Because when you get a kill the energy is just so intense. Since we kept getting kills, we just kept the energy up, we kept talking, kept playing hard.”
A key to Brentwood’s success this season, a record of 19-11-2, was how well the three seniors — Gilmore, Torri Brotherton and Emma Holmes — got along with the three freshman starters — Maggie Callihan, Madelyn Dorenbusch and Meghan Haug.
“The seniors would never make our underclassmen feel like ‘You made a mistake because you’re inexperienced,’” said DeHoyos. “Our seniors have the attitude of ‘Every single one of us makes mistakes.’ They don’t belittle somebody else.”
Said Dorenbusch, “They were really welcoming, so it wasn’t like, ‘Oo, we’re scared of a senior.’”
The freshmen are a tight bunch. Callihan and Dorenbusch have played volleyball together for six years and with Haug for two years. Haug is an outstanding server who scored numerous aces this season, including two in a row for the 11-4 lead over Principia in the first game.
“I try to hit it as hard as I can,” she said, then added with a smile, “and I try to aim for the court.”
Madelyn’s sister Lydia played for the team through last season.
“Maddie’s older sister was up here last year and we would follow them and watch their games,” said Callihan. “We said, ‘That’s going to be us some day.’”
Brentwood’s results, district tournament
Oct. 19: Beat Cleveland NJROTC 25-4, 25-17
Oct. 20: Semifinal, beat MRH 25-17, 25-15
Oct. 22: Final, lost to Principia 25-19, 25-20