BELLEVILLE — Playing inspired volleyball in search of a major upset, the Belleville West Maroons had rival Belleville East on the ropes on several occasions Tuesday in a Southwestern Conference match.
But the Maroons couldn't deliver the knockout blow.
East senior Josiah Bergt had four of his 15 kills late in the third game as the Lancers remained in the thick of the SWC race with a come-from-behind 22-25, 26-24, 25-22 win.
Led by the play of Trevor Juenger, Cade Dibadj and Luke Glaeser, West (11-8) held the Lancers array of hitters in check to win game one and were in position to clinch the match in two games before serving errors and other mistakes proved to be its downfall.
West made six serving errors -- including four down the stretch and East responded. Bergt broke a 24-all tie with a kill and when the Maroons followed with a hitting error on game point, the match was deadlocked.
The Lancers (14-4-1, 7-1) maintained the lead for most of the final game and when Deion Buckels hit a tip just out the reach of a diving Maroons player on match point, East had survived a major challenge.
"Even though it seemed like we had the lead for a lot of the third game, West didn't quit. They kept playing hard and took it down to the end,'' Lancers coach Stefanie Gaubatz said. "We had some players step up and hit big shots. Austin (Cox) and Deion (Buckels) played well in the third game and when Josiah (Bergt) plays hard he's tough to stop. We played better as the match went on, but we were fortunate to win."
Lancers senior setter John Mathews led both teams with 39 assists, while Cox and Buckels were also in double figures in kills with 10 each.
Dibadj and Glaeser paced West with 11 kills each, while Juenger added eight kills while dishing out 29 assists as the Maroons setter.
West also got 15 digs from Vishal Patel.
The loss however was a tough one to swallow for Maroons coach Austin Betz.
"I don't like losing anytime, but especially like this,'' Betz said. "We came out and played well in game one and then put ourselves in a position to win the match in two games.
"We just made a few mistakes late and the six serving errors really hurt us. That's giving them points when they don't have to make a return."
The Lancers were sluggish early and the Maroons took advantage. Neither team led by more then three points in the first game which ended with the Maroons winning the final three points.
The slow start by East came as no surprise to Gaubatz.
"It was the worst warmup we've had all year. When I pulled the team aside before the match I told them we had to get going, but we looked very slow, we were back on our heels and Wet came out and took it to us,'' Gaubatz said. "We were a little better as the match went on, but we need that aggressive approach at the start of the match. We didn't have that tonight."
A four-point scoring run by East -- its longest of the night -- gave East a 12-9 lead midway in the third game, but with sophomore Nick Stevenson serving, West took its biggest lead of the decisive game minutes later at 16-14.