WORCESTER — Facing a staunch challenger in No. 2 Bellingham (20-4), No. 1 Ipswich (23-0) proved its mettle and capped off an undefeated season. The Tigers defeated Bellingham, 3-2, at Worcester State University to capture their third straight Div. 4 girls volleyball title.
“I was a freshman when I watched the team win a state championship for the first time. My dream was to win a state championship and just winning two, I never imagined that would happen to me,” said junior Allison Pillis on her team’s title victory
Bellingham opened the first set with a 22-19 lead, forcing Ipswich to call timeout. Ipswich then went on a 4-1 run to tie the set at 23-23. The teams traded points and tied the set again at 25. A spike through the middle from Pillis and mis-hit out of bounds from Bellingham allowed Ipswich to complete the rally and take the first set, 27-25.
Bellingham stormed back in the second set. Again, they took a lead in the set at 17-13. After a timeout, Ipswich responded with a 4-1 run to cut the deficit to 18-17. Bellingham answered with a 6-1 run of their own, thanks in part to a pair of aces from Sophia Soto, to push the lead to 24-18. Unlike the first set, Bellingham held off a desperation run from Ipswich to take the second set 25-21.
In the third set, Bellingham once again took an early lead, 17-13. Ipswich answered the bell once more with a 6-1 run and took the lead at 19-18. The teams traded points to tie at 25-25 until Bellingham closed the door with back-to-back points, ending on an emphatic Taylor Callery kill.
Facing a 2-1 set deficit, Ipswich turned the tables on Bellingham and cruised in the fourth set, taking an early 16-7 lead. They held off a late Blackhawks surge to get a needed win and push the match to the fifth set.
“That’s one great thing about volleyball: it can pretty segmented if you allow it to be. Set change it’s zero – zero and a lot of things can happen in terms of momentum,” said Ipswich coach Staci Lawrence.
“We knew it was going to be a long game,” added Pillis, “Our energy really persevered and the key to our game is really our energy. We knew this was our last game and we had to end the season with no regrets.”
Ipswich maintained its momentum in the fifth, establishing a 10-7 lead. Pillis stepped up again with crucial kills down the stretch, helping the Tigers to a 15-9 set win and the Div. 4 state title.