Johnstown rallies to best Lady Rams volleyball in five game match

During just about any sport, momentum can change at any time. It can shift at any point, at any game, or when one team is faced with a must-win situation. The latter was the case Friday night when the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity volleyball team battled division rival Johnstown at the AHS gym. Amsterdam took the first two games, but the Lady Bills fought back to take the next three and the match by scores of 22-25, 22-25, 25-12, 25-19, and 25-12.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum,” Johnstown coach Heather McGuire said. “If you can keep your serve then you can keep the momentum. If you can get the other team’s serve-receive out of rhythm then you keep the momentum.”

After falling behind two games to none, the momentum began to change in favor of the Lady Bills and it all started with the serving game of Claire Guzielek and Jordan Rose, who helped the Lady Bills build an 8-3 lead. The Lady Rams continued to play heads up and let obvious long serves by the Lady Bills land out of bounds, but they couldn’t hold their serve and Johnstown took advantage. Kills by AHS’ Giuliana Pritchard and Morgan Durinick kept the Lady Rams in striking distance, but Janay Douglas’ serve at the center of the AHS defense gave the Lady Bills a 16-7 lead. After a side out, a kill by Alexys Hutchins gave the ball back to the Lady Bills where Guzielek aided by kills by Rose and a remarkable dig by the server that glided over the net gave Johnstown a 22-8 lead. The Lady Rams stemmed the tide only once more on a pair of aces by Ashlin Glionna and a kill by Alyssa Kuchis before Rose ended the drama with an ace. The Lady Bills looked to keep things in their favor in the fourth game despite a more determined effort from the Lady Rams.

Guzielek got Johnstown off to a strong start again boosted by a pair of kills by Hutchins for a 2-0 lead, but the Lady Rams responded better than in the previous game getting a pair of kills by senior Maria Lomanto during the serve of Durinick to push Amsterdam in front 7-2. However, that would be the last time in the match the Lady Rams would string together more than three points from their serve. A kill by Guzielek ended that run and another by Raina Danylak ended the next AHS service attempt giving the Lady Bills a chance to chip away at the lead. Behind the serve of Mackenzie Ward and the hitting of Danylak the Lady Bills eventually cut the AHS lead down to 11-10.

Amsterdam tried to keep the energy going in their favor and appeared ready to seize the momentum back after a kill by Kuchis ended a long volley with several digs on both sides, but the energy was short lived as Johnstown’s Danylak strategically served into the AHS front court catching the Lady Rams off guard and Johnstown inched ahead 15-12. Amsterdam had trouble breaking the Lady Bills serve and holding their own as kills by Rose and Hutchins kept JHS in front 18-13. Hitting from the center position, Pritchard gave the Lady Rams life with a kill and a point from serve, and Lomanto followed with a hit of her own slicing the lead to 19-16, but the Rams Rams could not get the momentum going with their serve and kills by Rose and Jordyn Stoutner finished the game four win for the Lady Bills.

“I guess once they started hitting we got scared,” Amsterdam’s Maria Lomanto said. “We couldn’t execute and we made more mental mistakes. Everyone here can play, but we tried to play smart and not safe.”

The Lady Rams continued to have trouble executing in the fifth game as the serving of Guzielek and Amber Ward along with kills by Rose (team high 10 kills) and Douglas (4 kills) built a 14-1 lead for the Lady Bills. A kill by Lomanto and a block by Pritchard, who both played the middle hitter position in place of senior Kateland Cooks, who was out due to illness, helped the Lady Ram cause, but the lead was too big to overcome. Cinderea Chrzanowski reeled off three service points cutting the lead to 21-9, but the Lady Bills knew time was on their side and a kill by Guzielek ended the match for a much needed win by a Lady Bills team that improved to 6-6 in the Foothills Council, and 7-6 overall.

“We’ve been working on finding our chemistry and confidence all season,” Johnstown coach McGuire said. “We’ve had moments in the last few matches [that showed] what type of team we are. Tonight in games three through five we consistently had those moments.”

The first two games were a positive start for the Lady Rams. Johnstown had built a 7-2 lead early in the opening set behind the serve of Guzielek and Amber Ward, but it was the Lady Rams who found the energy and momentum shift in their favor as they hit their way through the Johnstown lead. A pair of kills by Lomanto eventually knotted things up at 11-11 and then gave AHS it’s first lead during the serve of Ashlin Glionna. Alexandria Iglesias’ hit through a pair of Lady Bills blockers put the Lady Rams up 15-12 and they never trailed again in the first game. The serving of Kuchis and a hit by Pritchard that gave the Johnstown defense little time to react put AHS up 21-17. A hammer shot by Lomanto denied Johnstown any chance to surge ahead, and a kill from the corner by Kuchis ended the first game. Amsterdam did a better job of holding their serve and breaking the Lady Bills serve in the first two games than in the later three. The Lady Rams kept things going their way in the second set.

With the score tied at 3-3, Lomanto came through with two of her team high 12 kills to help AHS to a 6-3 lead during the serve of Glionna, who led the Lady Rams with 12 service points. Johnstown battled back but Amsterdam denied them any chance of putting togther a run. Kuchis was aided by Krystal Dicaprio’s kill that helped AHS double up the Lady Bills at 14-7. A kill to the back corner by Durinck put the score at 16-10, a tip over the net by Iglesias pushed it to 18-11, and then a kill by Kuchis made it 19-12 as AHS inched its way to the finish. Kills at the center hitter by Lomanto and Pritchard (7 kills) kept the AHS offense going for a 23-16 score. Guzielek and Amber Ward, who teamed up for 39 service points in the match, got a pair of points off their serves, but a hit out of bounds ended the second game in favor of the Lady Rams. It was the last time AHS led in the score until the early stages of the fourth game, but Johnstown had the positive energy going in their favor.

“We ran out of gas tonight,” said Amsterdam coach Christine Sherlock.

However, she cited the play of Lomanto, who has developed into one of the best hitters in the Foothills Council, and played a new position for the first time this season in place of the Lady Rams center hitter Cooks.

“Maria (Lomanto) played her best game this year,” Sherlock said. “She played well in a position she hasn’t played all year. I’m proud of her.”

“Hopefully tomorrow we can have a better day,” added Lomanto.

Both Amsterdam and Johnstown travel to Queensbury for the Lady Spartans “Power of Pink” tournament. During Friday nights game the Lady Rams wore their pink jerseys to raise awareness to breast cancer. Before the match, Coach Sherlock introduced a group of former booster club presidents including Kathy Kreisel, who is battling breast cancer. Each year high school sports teams across the country raise money to help in the fight against breast cancer. Sherlock said that she and the Lady Rams will be playing for people like Kreisel at Saturday’s tournament. All proceeds from the 50-50 raffle at Friday’s match were donated to the cause.

The Lady Rams return to Foothills Council action on Tuesday at the AHS gym to face the division leading Broadalbin-Perth Lady Patriots, The varsity match is scheduled to begin at 6pm.

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.