GARDINER – The Gardiner volleyball team lost last year to Cony, dropping three straight sets after winning the first two. And after the Tigers lost the first set in a rematch Tuesday night, there were worries starting to form that the Rams were going to do it to them again.

“After last year, I’m pretty sure they were thinking that,” Gardiner coach Maitland Hallett said. “It crosses your mind.”

This time, the Tigers wrote a different ending. Gardiner won the second and third sets and then pulled away to win the fourth, earning a 3-1 victory over its rival.

Gardiner, which won 25-17, 25-22 and then 25-10, improved to 4-3.

“I know what they’re capable of, so it’s just a matter of getting them to slowly progress and get their confidence going,” Hallett said. “It’s the communication that has to be an important part of it. If you wind up standing flat-footed and saying ‘It’s yours,’ you’re not going anywhere. It’s got to be ‘It’s mine,’ and you’ve got to be talking about what’s going on around you. They started communicating a little bit better.”

Cony, which won the first set 28-26, fell to 1-7.

“I think that they played really well together for the most part, their communication was a lot better,” Rams coach Lindsey Morin said. “I just think, once they get rattled, that they’re their own worst enemy and they can’t get out of that headspace.”

The teams were tied at 22 in the third set before Gardiner scored three straight points to take the win, getting a pair of aces from Shelby Berlew. The Tigers then erupted in the fourth, picking up 11 straight points with Berlew at the service line to turn a 2-1 score into a 13-2 runaway.

“As it quiets down it gets really nerve-wracking, because all the focus is on you,” said Berlew, who had another ace in the run and five altogether for the match. “But then again, all the focus is on everybody on the court, so you’ve got to brush that off, you’ve got to power through and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

“I just wanted them to keep the foot on the throttle,” Hallett said. “If the confidence keeps building, they can keep doing some amazing things.”

Kailee Canning and Kiara Goggin added kills during the run, while Canning added two more kills, Abby Folsom had an ace and Berlew and Ceri Gruber had back-to-back kills to end the match.

The match began auspiciously for Cony, with the Rams getting solid serves from Kaylee Leask, good sets from Zina Ahmad and clutch digs from Samantha Perry en route to the first set victory,

“We had a different gameplan going in than we’ve had in the past, and it was working for us,” Morin said. “Gardiner was getting exasperated at their own play, wanting to do better.”

Hallett could sense it as well, and used the period in between sets to talk to his team.

“(I said) ‘It’s not the game that we’re used to playing,’ ” said Hallett, who said his team had an unusually rough night at the service line. “When you get past 25 and it’s tit-for-tat like that, usually something’s not going right. I told them ‘Just flush that. The whole idea is the next play.’ ”

Gardiner took over, winning the second set convincingly and then bouncing back from deficits of 19-18, 20-19, 21-20 and 22-21 to take the third.

The Tiger’s height advantage at the net with Berlow, Gruber, Goggin and Erin Frankhauser began to take its toll on the Rams as Gardiner eked its way in front before running away in the final set.

“We do have girls who like to play at the net, and who usually do very well,” Hallett said. “We got some tough calls at the net tonight … but as long as that doesn’t get in their heads, if they stay strong and put a force field up there, they love blocking the ball.”

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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