CONNEAUTVILLE — The Cierniakoski brothers started it, they figured they might as well finish it.

Ron and Robert Cierniakoski gave Maplewood a 7-2 lead in a decisive fifth game to lead the Tigers to a thrilling 25-22, 18-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-3 win over Conneaut Valley in a Region 1 boys volleyball season opener on Tuesday.

The Cierniakoski’s performance in the final game culminated an outstanding overall performance by the duo, who finished with a total of 15 kills and 16 blocks.

“I told Ron Cierniakoski if I could give a gameball away, I’d give it to him,” Wood coach Sheila Bancroft said. “He was very patient; He got a little frustrated but he didn’t show it. He hung in there and at the end he was our go-to person.”

Wood and Valley had put on an exciting show leading into the fifth game with neither team leading by more than six points at any time during the first four games.

That six-point lead came during the first game, which started with Ron Cierniakoski scoring three of Maplewood’s first five points via blocks — all of which came against sharp-hitting Jordan Varee. Wood led the game 17-11 before Valley went on a 6-1 run, tying the game at 18 on Varee’s first good kill of the match.

The Tigers fought back to win the game 25-22. But the Indians weren’t finished.

Backed by outstanding performances by the Varee brothers, Valley was able to come back to take a one-game lead with wins of 25-18 and 25-22 in the second and third games, respectively.

Ben Varee paced the Indians with six kills in the second game. Jordan chipped in with six in the third game, which featured eight ties. In the fourth game, though, the Indians struggled to find that same offensive explosion.

“We have a very balanced team and we have a lot of opportunities to move the ball around,” Valley coach John Chapman said. “But we didn’t do a good job of that (Tuesday). We didn’t move the ball around as we should have and became kind of predictable.”

Maplewood took advantage in the fourth game — again led by the Cierniakoski’s, who accounted for seven of the Tigers’ 12 points off offense in a 25-23 win. Valley committed four errors on serve and seven on attack in the game.

“We gave them a lot of opportunities,” Chapman said. “We let them back in the game in the fourth game with missed serves and hitting errors, and they took advantage. Give them all the credit.

“They took care of it and they carried on with it. You can’t give a team like that opportunities and points.”

Valley was actually on the verge of closing out the match with an 18-15 lead in the fourth game. The Tigers responded, though, with a 10-5 run for a 25-23 win.

The Indians never got close after that with the Cierniakoski’s, again, taking control. The brothers had four kills and three blocks in the final game. Ron scored three points on successive serves to give the Tigers a 7-2 lead, which they eventually extended to nine points (11-2) before Ben Varee was able to score Valley’s next point.

“We very easily could have folded,” Bancroft said. “I was afraid of that mentally. One time during a timeout I told them, ‘It’s yours to lose right now. Mentally, you just have to get your heads back in the game.’

“And to come back and win that fifth game like that just shows a lot of composure and a lot of confidence.”

Ron Cierniakoski finished the match, which featured a whopping 30 ties, with eight kills and eight blocks. Rob finished with seven kills and eight blocks.

Also for the Tigers, Kevin Sawatsky had 11 points and 24 assists; Jake Ferguson had 11 points, 14 kills and 13 digs; Garrett Graff had 14 points; Kyle Hovis had 14 digs; and Joe Smith had eight kills and six blocks.

The Varee brothers did most of the damage for Valley. Jordan led the way with 17 kills, 11 points and 25 assists. Ben added 14 kills. Additionally, Cory Godina had seven kills and seven blocks; Brian Shidemantle had 10 points and eight points; Matt Hayes had 12 digs.

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