"I went to watch Point Pleasant and they were nothing like what I saw," Fenton said. "They were totally different today. They rose to the occasion. They left here filled with confidence."
The eighth-seeded Garnet Gulls certainly provided a paramount challenge for top-seeded Madison, which toiled extra hard to prevail, 25-22, 17-25, 26-16, in a South Jersey Group I quarterfinal.
First of all, Point Pleasant (16-7) exploited the Dodgers by tipping and serving into the middle. That wasn't something Fenton saw coming.
The Dodgers (19-2) didn't seem overjoyed with their performance and felt that perhaps they were too consumed by their No. 1 seed.
"We figured they're No. 8 and we're No. 1," Madison junior setter Jen Vorel said. "We didn't know how Point Pleasant would be. I don't think we were expecting that level of play."
Sophomore opposite Kelly Quinn thought the Dodgers were "overconfident and slow on our feet."
In the decisive third game, Madison took charge early. The Garnet Gulls, though, were never far behind. They tied the score, 15-15, then the Dodgers, sensing their season could come to an abrupt halt, picked it up, scoring 11 of the next 12 points.
There was an abundance of nice plays in that stretch. Sophomore outside hitter Margy Taylor had three kills, including the one that ended the match, and Joellen Kentner put the ball down twice. Senior Silvana Almonacid subbed in and had a service run of five points to close it out. Madison benefited from errors to get the rest of its points.
"If we didn't play our hearts out, it could be the end of the season," Vorel said. "We wanted to do what we're capable of. It would've been a shame to have it end right here."
"Our energy was up," Quinn said. "We knew we weren't going to lose."
Point Pleasant hoped to ride the momentum it gained in the second game into the third one yet was unable to do so.
"We wanted to keep it going," Garnet Gulls coach Rick Lill said. "We weren't making kills in the third game. We weren't putting the ball in play. If we did, we'd have the chance of getting points. Our serve receive went down. I would like to have seen a higher percentage."
In the second game, Point Pleasant took charge with Madison leading, 8-5. An 11-point service run by junior outside hitter Kirby Given ensued and put the Garnet Gulls in front, 16-8. Given had two aces in the burst. The Dodgers struggled with their passing and kept putting their kill attempts into the net.
The Dodgers closed within three points, 20-17. However, they couldn't get any closer.
"We were not playing our game," Fenton said. "We were playing like we were embarrassed and couldn't get on track. The girls are very hard on themselves when they make errors. They have to let the mistakes go. Many of the players froze. Only two of them seemed relaxed."
Madison was more itself in the first game. That didn't prevent Point Pleasant from being persistent. The visitors hung with the Dodgers, who received 10 kills and six digs from Kentner and seven kills from Kayla Fennelly. Madison had three of its 11 aces in the opening game. Taylor's four service points enabled the Dodgers to go up for good, 12-8.
Fourth-seeded Bloomfield Tech will be Madison's opponent in the semifinals which are set for Monday, Nov. 7. The Dodgers are aware they have work to do before that.
"We need to focus on our setting and communication," Vorel said. "If we make a mistake, we have to brush it off and calm down. Once we tweak things, we should be OK."
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