Romeo advances to Class A Semifinals with four game win over FH Mercy
UTICA – After jumping out to a 2-0 lead after two games, Romeo saw its commanding lead in the quarterfinals slowly start to slip away as Farmington Hills Mercy took the third game and looked poised to force a decisive game five as the Marlins stormed out to a 13-6 lead in game four, looking to knot the match with a win in game four.
But Jodie Kelly and Gia Milana had other plans.
Kelly and Milana recorded crucial kills down the stretch in game four to allow the Bulldogs to overcome the seven point deficit and pick up a win in game four as Romeo advanced to the Class A Semifinals, beating Mercy, 25-16, 25-20, 23-25 and 25-21.
Romeo (43-8-1) will now face Temperance Bedford in the Class A Semifinal at Battle Creek.
Romeo coach Stacy Williams said that after her team came away with impressive wins in games one and two, she was even a little surprised, adding that she expected more closely contested sets, like games three and four.
“I did expect what we had in the third and fourth set a little more at the beginning,” she said. “Thankful that we were able to pull those two out with that type of game. Our girls were excited, they were here, they were ready to win and they were going to make sure that they were going to Battle Creek on Friday.”
After Mercy jumped out to a 13-6 lead in game four, Kelly stepped up in a big way, registering three straight kills and adding a fourth after a Mercy point to kick start a 12-5 run to draw the Bulldogs into an 18-18 tie with Mercy, giving Romeo new life in the fourth set.
“I was seeing the line,” said Kelly of her spurt to start the Romeo rally. “The line was open the whole time, I saw their middles were picking up the spots on defense.”
Williams said that Milana, who was dominant on Tuesday night, is usually the player the Bulldogs go to when they need a point, but with Mercy turning its attention to the star junior for much of the fourth set, it opened things up for Kelly and she stepped up in a big way for her team
“When we need that side-out point, we do look to Gia for that kill,” she said. “But in that set right there, we were able to call on Jodie and she answered it and she swung to score points.”
After Mercy took the lead back on the next point, it was Milana’s time to take over once again as the Maryland-bound junior outside hitter registered back-to-back kills to give Romeo just its second lead of the fourth game and a third to push the Bulldog lead to 22-20.
Milana then put the exclamation point on the win as she recorded yet another kill to give Romeo a 24-21 lead as the Bulldogs would win the match on the very next point, a hit out of bounds by Mercy as Romeo punched its ticket to Battle Creek.
“We watched the tape and we knew what spots were open,” said Milana of her success on Tuesday night as she registered a match-high 31 kills to lead the way for Romeo. “I just hit high hands and tried to go for the cross and the line. Then they (Mercy) started blocking me, so I had to adjust and go over their hands and it started working for us in the end.”
In the first two games, Milana and Romeo were dominant as the Bulldogs jumped out to a commanding 2-0 lead over Mercy with a 25-16 win in game one and a 25-20 win in game two as Milana registered 18 of her 31 kills in the first two games.
Kelly added in 16 kills and 23 digs for Romeo in the win, while Lauren Korth tallied 53 assists to help lead the Bulldogs.
But Mercy didn’t go quietly as the Marlins held a 15-9 lead early on after kills from Bella McDonald and Kayla Fisher. After Romeo would battle back to trim the lead down to two, a kill from senior Jenna Lerg put the Marlins ahead by three, 18-15.
Romeo would hand around as consecutive kills by Milana trimmed the deficit down to as low as 23-21, but a McDonald kill and strong defense would help Mercy close out the win in the third game.
“We were having difficulty scoring on the left, so we started shifting everything to the right side and that was working for us,” said Mercy coach Loretta Vogel of what was working for her team in the third game and early on in the fourth.