Shared from the 10/31/2018 Mon Valley Independent eEdition

Skye High! Eicher, Frazier rally to semis

Commodores clinch state tournament berth and head to WPIAL semis behind junior’s 26 kills.

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Ashley Chase / For the Mon Valley Independent Frazier’s Gabrielle Alekson slams home one of her eight kills to help lead the Commodores into the PIAA state tournament and the WPIAL semifinals with a 3-2 win over Deer Lakes at Moon High School.

MOON TOWNSHIP — Frazier may not have fully hit their stride until the fifth set, but when it came down to it, it’s the set that mattered most.

The Commodores punched their ticket to the PIAA state tournament with a WPIAL quarterfinal win over Deer Lakes in a five-set thriller.

In a match that didn’t feature any long runs of points for either team, Frazier shook off some first set jitters and Gabrielle Alekson finished off the Lancers with one of her eight kills on the night for the 25-22 win.

The second was all Deer Lakes, who grabbed the set momentum early and retained it to take the 25-16 win.

“Deer Lakes does a great job of keeping you out of system. I haven’t had a team do that to us all year. It rattled us and it showed,” said head coach Mandy Hartman.

In the third, Frazier led by as many as five, but Deer Lakes hung tight, rallying last in the set to push set point. With the third tied 24-24, Skye Eicher drilled a hot shot past the Lancers to bring up game point and Alekson brought it home with an ace serve.

Frazier never held a lead in the fourth set but it was highly contested, with Deer Lakes holding their largest lead at 13-8. Eicher’s power was on display, bringing a Lancer to the floor, bent over backwards from the force of the kill. Eicher was crucial in the final stretch, but despite her efforts and those of Sierra Twigg, Deer Lakes took the fourth set 26-24.

Eicher and Twigg led the way in the fifth set. Twigg came up with a timely block and kill, while Eicher rounded out her match-high number of kills to 26, and the Commodores came away victorious 15-12 to take the fifth set and the win, claiming their place in the final four of the WPIAL elite and earning a bid to the PIAA tournament.

“Sometimes it takes us a minute to get there,” said Twigg, “but as soon as we get there and Skye’s winning points, the whole thing comes together.”

Eicher has been a powerhouse for the Commodores through years past, but adding players like Twigg and Alekson to their arsenal proved especially beneficial this time around.

“Last year, that was our biggest weakness is that we only reliably had Skye. Gabrielle has stepped up this year and Sierra has won some big points for us late in the season,” said Hartman.

“I can’t tell you how much us being together and being a family brought us to win this game,” said Twigg. “It was the best feeling when we got that last ball across the net.” Frazier will take on Freeport in the semifinals, a team that’s advanced to the semifinals for six consecutive seasons. Freeport swept Seton LaSalle in three sets to advance from the quarterfinal round.

“We were supposed to win tonight,” said coach Hartman. “When you look at the numbers, look at the bracket, we were supposed to win. That adds pressure. We’re not supposed to win on Thursday and everybody knows it. There’s no pressure for us, we’re going to go play the game that we love.”

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