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Elizabeth Whitney powers Easthampton girls volleyball

  • Elizabeth Whitney of Easthampton, right, scores while defended by Courtney Marcil of South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Elizabeth Whitney of Easthampton, right, scores while defended by Courtney Marcil of South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kayla McFarland of Easthampton digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Kayla McFarland of Easthampton digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Elizabeth Whitney of Easthampton, left, digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Elizabeth Whitney of Easthampton, left, digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Meghan Parenteau of South Hadley shoots against Easthampton Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Meghan Parenteau of South Hadley shoots against Easthampton Tuesday in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Moneerachena Nhem of Easthampton digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Moneerachena Nhem of Easthampton digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Liz Militante-Advey of South Hadley, front, digs as Elizabeth Whitney of Easthampton watches Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Liz Militante-Advey of South Hadley, front, digs as Elizabeth Whitney of Easthampton watches Tuesday in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kelly Avard of Easthampton, right, shoots while defended by Liz Militante-Advey of South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Kelly Avard of Easthampton, right, shoots while defended by Liz Militante-Advey of South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Moneerachena Nhem of Easthampton, center, shoots against South Hadley defenders Katie Robitaille, left, and Sarah LaRochelle Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Moneerachena Nhem of Easthampton, center, shoots against South Hadley defenders Katie Robitaille, left, and Sarah LaRochelle Tuesday in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ruthenee Nhem of Easthampton digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Ruthenee Nhem of Easthampton digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Elizabeth Whitney of Easthampton, right, scores while defended by Courtney Marcil of South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Kayla McFarland of Easthampton digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Elizabeth Whitney of Easthampton, left, digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Meghan Parenteau of South Hadley shoots against Easthampton Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Moneerachena Nhem of Easthampton digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Liz Militante-Advey of South Hadley, front, digs as Elizabeth Whitney of Easthampton watches Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Kelly Avard of Easthampton, right, shoots while defended by Liz Militante-Advey of South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Moneerachena Nhem of Easthampton, center, shoots against South Hadley defenders Katie Robitaille, left, and Sarah LaRochelle Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Ruthenee Nhem of Easthampton digs against South Hadley Tuesday in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

EASTHAMPTON — Elizabath Whitney made sure the Easthampton girls volleyball team’s league championship hopes stayed alive Tuesday.

Whitney carved up South Hadley’s defense with 10 kills in her team’s 3-0 win (25-13, 25-8, 25-17) over the Tigers.

“Elizabeth Whitney was back tonight,” Easthampton coach Molly Jacobson said. “Just to feel her presence back, I think that really inspired the team.”

After dominant sophomore and junior seasons, Whitney’s senior year hasn’t been as strong, according to Jacobson. However, Whitney provided a spark for the Eagles.

“I think that once I start hitting well, then they just keep going (to me) and the momentum and the confidence comes,” Whitney said.

The win moves Easthampton a step closer to a possible Central Division title, while the Tigers (8-4, 1-3) will have to wait another game to clinch their playoff spot.

Easthampton (12-2, 5-1) is in second place behind Ludlow (14-0, 5-0) and will likely have to beat the Lions to earn a league championship. The teams will meet in the regular season finale at Ludlow on Oct. 26. Ludlow beat the Eagles in a five-set thriller earlier this year.

“I try to stay in the moment and think about our next game, but that last Ludlow game is a matter of whether we’re co-league champions or not,” Jacobson said.

Easthampton started with a 25-13 win in the crucial opening game against the Tigers.

South Hadley stayed with the Eagles a majority of Game 1. Maddi Kelleher (two aces, three digs, two kills) recorded a kill to pull the Tigers within 14-13, and forced Jacobson into a timeout to calm her team.

“I knew I needed to call a timeout, and I feel like the jitters and excitement needed to be done,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson’s strategy worked as her team rattled off 11 of the next 12 points for the win. Easthampton claimed the final eight points of the match. Whitney had three kills during that closing stretch, while senior Kelly Avard (three kills, two aces) had one kill and one ace.

“They really responded well,” Jacobson said. “You never know if they’re going to respond after a timeout, and they certainly did.”

The Eagles carried the momentum into Game 2.

Kayla McFarland (five aces) recorded three aces as Easthampton won nine of the first 10 points. The Eagles constantly fed Whitney, who recorded five kills during the game. South Hadley never recovered and fell 25-8.

“I kept saying ‘just go until they stop her’ so we just kept setting her and they never stopped her,” Jacobson said.

In the third game, Easthampton again came out serving. This time it was Rachena Nhem (five aces, 12 assists) pulling the strings from the back line. Nhem had four aces as the Eagles won the first six points.

The Tigers fought back and forced Jacobson into another timeout when they cut Easthampton’s lead to 13-10.

However, that was as close as they’d get as the Eagles rattled off six straight points and cruised to victory. They won the final match, 25-17.

“I feel like this was actually one of the best games we played all season,” Jacobson said. “We won three straight against South Hadley a month ago, but it didn’t seem like it was as easy as it was tonight. We certainly seemed like a different team out there tonight then we did a month ago.”

Easthampton plays Sci Tech Thursday in Springfield. The Eagles also have Pioneer Christian and Southwick left.

Courtney Marcil had four assists and two aces for South Hadley, which takes on Pioneer Christian on Thursday at home, then closes with Ludlow, Sci-Tech and Southwick.

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