HATHORNE — For the second time in a row a fine season by Essex Tech volleyball ended with a loss to Ipswich in the Division 3 North Tournament.
Last year it happened in the semi-final round, and this time in the quarterfinals as the visiting Tigers won in three straight sets, 25-16, 25-17, and 25-16 on Monday afternoon.
"We didn't play well and were intimidated for some reason," said Hawks coach Pamela Leete. "Ipswich gives us problems. Last season we flew under the radar at 19-1, and lost to Ipswich, too."
The Hawks were the number two seed while the Tigers (now 14-6) were the seventh seed. The first set was tied in the early going before Ipswich took the lead with eight straight points when Adeline Wittkamper was serving.
Essex Tech fought back, closing the gap to 15-14 after getting four straight points, but the Tigers pulled away with six points with Wittkamper serving en route to a nine point victory.
"Adeline is our strongest server, and I don't think she had any errors," said Tiger coach Kerri O'Connor. "She served us a lot of points. This was really a team win, and I was able to play everybody. Sometimes that's hard to do in a tourney game."
The second set was tied four times in the early going before Ipswich pulled ahead. They scored 10 straight points with Wittkamper serving again to take a 22-10 lead. Libero Louisa Roesler had a big dig on the winning point, 25-17.
"All our starters played really well," said O'Connor. "Haley (O'Connor) had very clean sets, and middle hitter Abby Stanicek was really aggressive at the net. Our back row also did a nice job, and Roesler has been great all season long. We had good passing and digging, but we were playing too conservatively. We have to bring more power going forward. We have it and just have to use it more.
Essex Tech rallied from a 10-3 deficit after the Tigers scored five in a row while Haley O'Connor was serving and closed the gap to 12-9 before the visitors finished strong to win, 25-16.
"We play as a team and work together," said senior captain Haley O'Connor, a setter. "Our communication is really good."
Setter Ariana Magee had 16 assists for the Hawks and defensive specialist Maggie McQuade had 13 digs while Molly Wetherbee finished with nine kills.
"Magee is the league MVP, did a great job at setter," said Leete after her team finished with a 16-5 record. "McQuade is only a sophomore and also stepped up after we made some adjustments. It's disappointing to lose, but we had a great season with 16 wins and taking second in the conference. We had big wins over Bishop Fenwick and St. Mary's late in the season.
"These kids did a great job, especially since we only had two returning starters. I also can't say enough about the support we've been getting from teachers and other coaches. I'm very proud of all the girls."
Ipswich will take on Greater Lowell on Wednesday at Burlington High for a spot in the Division 3 North title game, where they've lost the last two seasons. Captains Stanicek and Emily Davidson are ready for the next challenge.
"We've been working on things we've been coached," middle hitter Stanicek said. "The plan is to work the ball fast so the opposition has trouble returning it."
"We want to be more aggressive and play a faster game," added Davidson.