Danvers (19-2), the No. 4 seed, was pushed to the limit by the No. 5 seeded Pioneers (18-4) and sweated out a 27-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22 win in four sets to advance to advance to a semifinals showdown Thursday night against Burlington.
Truth be told, the Pioneers simply gave the match away, playing their worst service game in a long while and committing a slew of unforced errors, yet the Falcons were forced to play one of their best matches of the season to put them away.
"It wasn't our best day, that's for sure," said Lynnfield coach Michelle Perrone. "For sure it was one of our worst service days and we were way off, probably the most service errors we have had all season. It just wasn't the right time to have that kind of a day."
In the first set, both teams had long runs. Lynnfield jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to fall behind 8-3 after the Falcons ran off eight straight points off the serve of Lili Montanari (11 kills, 4 aces) whose serve gave Lynnfield fits. The Pioneers, behind two kills each from Maxine Boyle (team-high 14 kills) and Sam Lebruska (8 digs, 7 kills), countered with a 7-0 run to regain the lead at 10-8.
Danvers then went on an 11-7 run to open its largest lead of the match, 21-15, but Lynnfield climbed back, going on a 7-2 run to close to 23-22. After a Pioneer service error gave Danvers a double set point at 24-22, Lynnfield rallied with three straight points , the final two on a Lebruska kill after a diving save by Melissa Morelli (16 assists, 6 kills), and a cross court winner by Elana Kotler (13 digs), to have its first match point at 25-24. Danvers closed out the set by taking the next three points, the final two on Lynnfield errors to take a 1-0 lead.
Neither team was able to get much going in the second set. Tied at 17-17, the Falcons won eight of the next 11 points to close out the set and take a 2-0 lead.
Lynnfield led from start to finish in the third set and led by as many as five points (10-5) only to lose the lead after a big block by 6'2" Abbey Skinner (14 kills, 7 blocks) knotted the score at 21-21. A cross court winner by Lebruska and a winner on a third hit by Emory Caswell sandwiched around a Falcon error gave the Pioneers set point at 24-21, but a monster kill by Skinner kept the Falcons alive on the next point. Morelli, however, needed just one shot to put the set in the bank, drilling a winner from the left side to put the Pioneers back in business.
The fourth set was back-and-forth. Tied at 17-17, Lynnfield grabbed the lead, 17-20, on a Morelli kill and two straight kills by Boyle , but Danvers hit nothing but winners the rest of the way, winning eight of the final 10 points to punch its ticket to the semis.
For Lynnfield, Sofia Ciriello finished with a team-high 20 digs, while Danvers' Madelyn Montanari had 10 kills and three blocks.
The match was also a reunion of sorts for Perrone and Danvers coach George LeVasseur, who served as an assistant coach (and junior varsity coach) to Perrone for a year until moving on to the head coach position at Danvers six years ago.
"I cannot tell you how far this team has come from day one, our first match when we got blown out by Hamilton-Wenham to competing and beating strong teams like Bishop Fenwick and Lynnfield," said LeVasseur. "I have more respect for Michelle Perrone that I can explain. Her teams are always strong so to be able to beat them tonight was something."