Brookwood's Autumn Adams slams the ball past Mill Creek's Emily Rose (7) on Tuesday.
In a match defined by errors, each game could have gone either way.
Momentum seesawed back and forth — sometimes given, sometimes taken away.
Brookwood finally seized control in the decisive fifth game and beat Mill Creek to advance to the state’s elite eight for the first time in school history Tuesday. The Broncos eliminated the Hawks 25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 23-25, 15-10 in the second round of the Class AAAAA volleyball playoffs.
The pair of overachieving teams — neither set its preseason goals this high — duked it out for more than two hours before a tip at the net by Autumn Adams sealed it for Brookwood.
“I thought we played fantastic — Brookwood earned it,” Mill Creek head coach Brian Williamson said. “It hurt us letting that Game 3 get away. I think we were up six and they came all the way back and got us.
“We jumped on it, though. We came back and won Game 4, which was huge, especially after that debacle in Game 3. But, you know, they played better at the end and they deserved it.”
A raucous home crowd stormed the court to celebrate the victory.
“I don’t think we’ve played in front of a crowd this big all season,” Broncos head coach Brian Welsch said. “I think it gave us a lot of momentum.
“Game 5, they always say it’s about who wants it more and we played pretty clean.”
The first two games were littered with service errors.
Mill Creek staved off four game points before dropping an opening game that featured eight combined serves hits into the net. But the Hawks rallied for a win in Game 2, trailing only once and yet never able to pull out to a substantial lead. Brookwood saved one game point only to serve it into the net.
“We haven’t missed that many serves in a game since the beginning of the season,” Welsch said. “That was one thing that we kind of prided ourselves on, serving aggressively and the fact that we’ve eliminated service errors. We went from averaging seven or eight a game, down to two or three.”
The thing that cost the Broncos so many points in the first two games got them a huge comeback win in a pivotal Game 3.
Brookwood trailed 14-6 early on and Welsch used his final timeout.
“I had no control over the speed of the game,” he said. “I just had to depend on the girls.”
The Hawks kept the pressure on and had a 21-15 lead when senior Katie Mallow hammered down one of her nine kills. Jacqueline Portz, a senior setter, stepped to the service line and even a timeout by Mill Creek couldn’t derail the train.
The Broncos won the next 10 points. The finale was a serve by Portz that just clipped the side line.
“She’s a very aggressive server,” Welsch said. “We found a target and we were able to serve consistently and aggressively. But whether it was in or out, it wasn’t in the net — the other team had to make the decision.”
Mill Creek made a smaller, but no less significant rally in Game 4. Neck-and-neck all the way, Brookwood was up 23-21 and couldn’t finish off the Hawks, who played outstanding defense throughout.
“It seemed like they were everywhere we hit,” the big-swinging Adams said. “It was like we could never just hit a ball down. At first, our blocks, we had a seam in them, but we eventually got over it and sealed it.”
Adams quickly found an opening in Game 5. A monster kill gave Brookwood the opening point of a game for the first time in the match. Mill Creek tied it 8-8 on a tip by Kim Brody, but the Broncos ran off five straight points to put the match away.
“At first we didn’t really play our game,” Adams said. “But I think gradually we picked it up and in the last game, we kind of brought the heat. We kept searching for that one big play.
“In the last game, I had that first hit and we just got some sick blocks. It was awesome.”
Brody led all hitters with 23 kills. She also had six aces. MaTia Hughes was close behind her teammates with 21 kills.
Brookwood’s attack was more balanced. Adams, Samantha Gratton and Erin Webb each had eight kills to go with Mallow’s nine. Katie Kraft had 26 digs and Webb added 14 of her own.