HUDSON — On Saturday afternoon, Ayer girls’ volleyball looked to continue a magical run in the District finals. The Lady Panthers had put together the best season in school history, running through the regular season with a perfect 16-0 record before picking up two more wins in the post-season to set up their first championship appearance in school history.
Unfortunately, this story had no Hollywood ending. Millis, holders of the most deceiving 10-13 record most will ever see, continued its Division III dominance. The Lady Mohawks never let Ayer breathe, sweeping the match 25-11, 25-13 and 25-10 to claim back-to-back District titles.
“It is a little disappointing to get this far and come up short, but we ran into a great team today,” said Lady Panthers first year coach Vic Wirkkala. “This is the furthest the school has ever gone and we have had an amazing season. I could not ask for more from this group of girls.”
After falling behind 1-0, Millis reeled off a 20-4 run behind outstanding team service. Michelle Ryder (five), Jocelyne Norton (three), Molly Alper (four) and Taylor Hunt (four) all had long service runs as the Lady Mohawks turned a deficit into a 20-5 lead.
Ayer was put on the defensive right away and took a little time to find its footing. Over the final 11 points of game one, the Lady Panthers held a 6-5 edge in points, keyed by two kills from Brynnan Farrington. The late rally was not enough as Millis took game one 25-11, but the momentum carried over into game two.
“We were on our heels early on,” said Wirkkala. “Their service game was very strong and we had some issues with it throughout the match. I thought we made adjustments, but just couldn’t solve it.”
Behind three service points from Anna Peck and a loud block from Farrington, Ayer ran out to a 4-0 lead in the second game. Slowly but surely though, the Lady Mohawks crept back into the game, tying it at 7-7 before a net violation gave the Lady Panthers back the lead at 8-7.
From that point on, Millis dominated the second game, closing it out on an 18-5 run. Alper and Madison Shea both had four service points during the finishing kick while Pam Knight (three kills, three assists) and Norton (three kills) controlled the play at the net. Norton closed things out by blocking a potential Ayer spike on game point to give the Lady Mohawks a 25-13 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
A Farrington block early in game three gave the Lady Panthers a 2-1 advantage, but Millis responded by reeling off eight consecutive points to break the game open. Knight was the catalyst, picking up seven service points, including three aces, as the Lady Mohawks held a 9-2 lead.
Kylie Wright and Anna Peck came up with consecutive kills to cut the deficit to four at 10-6, but that was as close as it would get. Millis sealed the deal with a 15-4 run to end the game and the match.