GUYS MILLS — One of the biggest concerns when the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association chose to adopt rally scoring in high school volleyball three years ago was how it would affect a team’s ability to make a comeback.

It may have taken awhile, but Maplewood dispelled any of those quandaries on Thursday.

On the verge of heading to a fifth and deciding game, the Tigers rallied back from five points down (20-15) to down Conneaut Valley 25-22 and complete a four-game victory.

Maplewood remains atop the Region 1 standings at 6-0 with the 25-18, 22-25, 25-19, 25-22 win. The Indians, meanwhile, slipped to 4-3 overall and 3-3 in the region and are three games out of first place.

“It is possible,” Wood coach Sheila Bancroft said of the comeback. “It’s probably harder in boys volleyball than girls because boys hit the ball much harder and they attack, side-out, side-out, side-out.

“If you have a good defensive team, that’s about the only way you’re going to be able to come back.”

And that is exactly what the Tigers had: a near flawless defense.

“We’ve really been stressing a lot on defense,” Bancroft said. “That’s the best defense we’ve played all season long (Thursday).

“We’re going to go back to the gym and keep stressing that. Defense is going to win championships and you have to be able to play defense in the end.”

Maplewood took the initial lead in the fourth game and maintained that lead until Cory Godina gave the Indians a 13-12 lead with his second block of the game. Valley extended that lead to four points (18-14) on back-to-back blocks by Godina and took a 20-15 lead on a Wood attack error.

Game. Set. Match. Right? Wrong. Instead of folding, the Tigers went back to work, slowly chipping away at the deficit and pulling to within one (21-20) on a block by Ron Cierniakoski. Maplewood tied it at 21 on a Valley attack error and Joe Smith put the Tigers ahead for good with his second block four serves.

“It helps when you have strong blocking,” Bancroft said. “We’re ball all the way across. There’s not a weak position in our blocking. That starts our defense right there.”

It certainly set the tone for the match in the first game. In fact, Maplewood tallied seven blocks in the first game with Robert Cierniakoski accounting for three-and-a-half of those.

Conneaut Valley adjusted in the second and third games, winning the second game 25-22 with the help of five kills from Cameron Smithee. But the Indians couldn’t seal the deal.

“You can’t give away points,” Valley coach John Chapman said. “If we play cleaner, it’s a whole different story. We had the game there in the end; we just gave up way, way too many points.

“Give credit to Maplewood. They’re going to take advantage of that. You can’t give a good team that many points and expect to win.”

On the night, Ron and Robert Cierniakoski finished with nine blocks each. Robert Cierniakoski added 11 points and eight kills. Ron added a match-high 15 kills.

“They’re two great middle hitters,” Bancroft said. “They come up big in the middle and just seem to come through with the blocks when they need to.”

Also at the net, Joe Smith finished with five blocks. Jake Ferguson had six kills. Kevin Sawatsky and Nick Bancroft dished out 17 and 13 assists, respectively.

Kyle Hovis had 16 digs and served up seven points with three aces.

For the Indians, Jordan Varee had a 10-kill, 30-assist double-double. Godina had six blocks and seven kills; Ben Varee had 11 kills and 11 digs; and Smithee had 15 kills.



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