By John Tawa, Posted 04/13 on PrepVolleyball.com
Summit-Nitro and Top Select both had stakes in the outcome of the match. A Circle City win would clinch the final bid for SNVBC. A LoneStar victory, which would put the Texans in the final versus Dynasty, would drop Circle to 1-2 and bring Top Select back into the discussion.
Circle City rallied from behind to win the first set, 25-23, and led the second, 21-19, before LoneStar scored six of the last seven, capped by a Nicole Piatas kill, to send the teams to a third set.
Circle City, on kills from Phillips, Gretchen Kuckkan and Holly Eastridge, started Game 3 with a 4-2 lead and extended it to 14-8 on two Baird kills. I told SNVBC coach Gass to stay close because I wanted to interview him once his team’s bid was assured.
Caroline Swan scored for LoneStar. Then Annie Swan and Swenson teamed on a block. Hanan would not let his team lay down.
“We said, ‘Keep our composure. Anything can happen. We know that we’ve been in this situation before. Swing to win. Don’t play safe or you will lose.’ We saw them playing safe. We were aggressive and our defense took us to another level.”
With Hailey Hoang anchoring the back row and the LoneStar front court getting touches on every swing, even those on the 6-3 Baird on the left side, LoneStar continued to rally, getting a Swenson kill and ace and kill from Stephanie Young to cut the lead to 14-13. Circle continued to go to Baird, its horse, but LoneStar was committed to stopping her.
“Any ball, good or bad pass, probably was going to her,” said Hanan. “We shifted our defense to wait on her the whole time. If she was going to beat us we were going to do it with our best players on her.”
Hecht scored to tie it for LoneStar, which had six in a row and all the momentum. Young then aced again and you could see the life go out of Circle City. A hitting error completed the 8-0 finishing run for LoneStar, which erupted at the end.
“What a great way to get to Gold!” Hanan exclaimed.
LoneStar’s win deferred Summit-Nitro’s bid. It gave Top Select life and a shot to steal it from the Texans, but the shot was the longest of long.
Top Select needed to first defeat Rockwood Thunder in a playoff to 25. If not, SNVBC got the bid. Top Select then needed to beat Circle in a playoff to 25. If not, the bid to Summit-Nitro. If Top Select managed that, it then needed to defeat resting Summit-Nitro in a match for third-place overall.
Like I said, the longest of long shots.
The dream ended in the first playoff for Top Select. Kills from Bair, Livie Sandt and Staciana Stockhelped Rockwood open up an 18-12 lead. With Mallory Downing serving,Top Select rattled off five in a row to pull within one at 18-17. But two kills from Bair, another from Stock and Stock’s blockin tandem with Sandt made it 22-18 Rockwood late. Defense from Ashley Federer and Andrea Zeiser and kills from Sandt and Emily Rehagen helped salt away the win.
Summit-Nitro’s players exploded from their chairs when the final point went down in the 25-19 Rockwood win. Gass permitted himself a big smile.
“We were just grinding out points,” he said when asked about his team’s journey over the weekend. “It was a good team effort. 2-1 yesterday and 2-1 today put us in position. We work them hard in practice. It’s a great group of girls. Our best team is us when we practice 6 on 6.”
In addition to Perdue, the team’s star, Emily Janek, Aaryn Scires, Panhans and Julia Adams were special in the team’s push to the bid.
“It takes everybody,” said Gass.
While the playoff was happening, unbeknownst to the tournament desk, Dynasty and LoneStar were throwing down in the 15 Open championship match. Dynasty won the first, 25-13, as fast middle Gartner contributed to Dynasty’s fast start. Young and Annie Swan helped LoneStar capture the second, 25-20. Dynasty led Game 3, 4-3, after Hickman’s line shot capped a rally that featured digs from Lauren Maceliand Loren Hinkle. Caroline Swan answered for LoneStar.
The set went into overtime, while I was in the corner of the convention center watching LoneStar 16s battle for a bid with Triangle. Dynasty won, 17-15, saving two match points against in the process. Undersized OH Jaquelin Storm was the hero, winning match point on a joust a few points after saving match point against with a dig that careened off of her head and over the net.