MIAA volleyball: South Hadley falls to Mashpee, Smith Voc sweeps Prospect Hill

South Hadley huddles up during a match earlier this season.

South Hadley huddles up during a match earlier this season. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE


Staff Writer 

Published: 11-01-2023 9:05 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — The final result Wednesday night – a 3-0 loss to No. 33 Mashpee in the MIAA Division 4 state tournament – seemed almost secondary to first-year South Hadley head coach Sabrina Bardwell. 

Of course, the 32nd-seeded Tigers wanted to win – who doesn’t? Bardwell describes both herself and her team as “fiercely competitive.” But the Tigers were just a year removed from a winless season, and finishing with a 12-8 record and an appearance in the state tournament made Bardwell grateful for what they’d been able to accomplish in just a year. 

“What I told the girls is that while it stinks to lose, there's no point in dwelling on it. The reality is, the difference from last year to this year is what matters the most,” Bardwell said. “That's what I told them to focus on, that they gotta leave with their heads high. They gotta be really proud. It’s just sad it’s over.” 

The Tigers fell in straight sets (25-18, 25-13, 25-17) to a Mashpee team that had a strong service game and made fewer mistakes than the home team. Mashpee seniors Loc Phu and Amaya Azevedo-Fraser, along with Stacey Santos, were all strong performers at the service line. 

South Hadley captain Destiny Patterson didn’t feel like the nerves got to the team, but it was difficult at time to stay mentally strong. Mashpee raced out to 10-2 and 10-3 leads in the first and second sets, respectively, putting the Tigers into a hole they had to dig themselves out of. 

“I wasn't really nervous. I was excited. I feel like we just all got down on ourselves this game, and happens a lot, because we are a very mental team,” Patterson said. 

The Tigers pulled within 10-7 in the first set, but from there the Falcons scored six straight points to put more distance between the two teams that the Tigers couldn’t recover from. 

They pulled within two points in the second set (13-11) but costly serving mistakes kept South Hadley from pulling back even. Both teams struggled at times getting their serves over cleanly.  

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Communication errors also cost the Tigers valuable points, something Bardwell stressed to her team all night long. 

“I think that we’ve struggled all season to communicate for whatever reason. We can do the skills, skill-wise I think we were better than them, (even though) it didn't show on the scoreboard. But they just didn't communicate at all,” Bardwell said. “Every time out, in between every set, that's all I focused on. When you communicate, you not only put your team on notice, but you mentally prepare, and you have a better outcome and they just couldn't get that together today.”

By the time the third set rolled around, the Tigers seemed to have settled down and were able to capitalize on Mashpee’s mistakes. It was a back-and-forth frame from the beginning, and South Hadley also took its first lead of the evening with a 4-3 lead on a kill from Raquel Losty.

Mashpee eventually tied the game at 13-13 and then took a lead it never gave up, slowly pulling away from the Tigers. The club outscored the home team 12-4 to close out the contest. 

Despite the loss, Patterson noted how enjoyable it was to have a team that bonded really well this season. Up until the final point of their match against Mashpee, the Tigers were still having fun on the court. 

“I think we were good on serve receive (in the third set), we were communicating as well. But we were having fun, and I think that was a really big difference from a lot of our last games, because this game we were having fun,” Patterson said. 

Smith Voc 3, Prospect Hill Academy 0 – The No. 26 Vikings outlasted No. 42 Prospect Hill Academy in a dramatic 26-24 win in the first set before cruising to a three-set victory (26-24, 25-16, 25-18) in the Division 5 preliminary round on Wednesday in Northampton.

Setter Roma Bentrewicz had 21 assists while Heidymar Diaz-Lopez posted eight kills and nine digs for Smith Vocational. Jaelyn Kulas and Irelyn Marcoux provided secondary scoring for the Vikings with five kills each. Maggie Smith added six digs in the victory. 

The Vikings will travel to No. 7 Whitinsville Christian to play in the Round of 32 on Friday. 

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.