ST. HENRY – Versailles beat St. Henry, the state’s No. 3 ranked team, in four sets of Midwest Athletic Conference volleyball on Thursday in St. Henry.
“Huge win,” Versailles coach Kenzie Bruggeman said. “I thought we just responded really well to everything. We didn’t start out as strong as we wanted to the first game. Came back, refocused and then we just kept grinding and going from there. St. Henry is a great team. We knew it was going to be a battle, but we just stayed driven and needed to do what we had to do to win.”
Versailles entered Thursday’s match as the No. 10 ranked team in Division III while St. Henry was ranked third in Division IV by the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association.
It the early stages of the match it was back and forth with the receiving team scoring 11 of the first 13 points in the opening set, giving St. Henry a narrow 7-6 lead. From there the home team caught fire and scored 11 of the next 12 points to go up 18-7.
Versailles didn’t go down easily, though. The Tigers rallied to score 14 of the next 20 points and cut the deficit to 24-21 before losing the game 25-21.
Even though Versailles lost the opening set, its rally to close the gap in that game provided momentum that was crucial to the Tigers’ success the rest of the night.
“Definitely built some momentum for us,” Bruggeman said, “and just to see that we can do it if we have an offense. We were just shooting ourselves in the foot. That was good. Like I said, just being able to respond to that and pushing forward to get the W.”
The second set was neck and neck until midway through the game when Versailles started to take control. From a 15-14 lead, Versailles scored seven of the next nine points to go up 22-17. The Tigers went on to win the game 25-20 and tie the best-of-five match at one game apiece.
St. Henry scored the first three points of the third set, but once again Versailles started to take control. The Tigers gained the lead at 5-4 and then continued to extend its advantage. They went up 17-10 before St. Henry started to regroup. St. Henry managed to cut Versailles’ lead to 19-16 but couldn’t get any closer as Versailles won 25-19 and went up two games to one.
Versailles again had the lead in the fourth set as it looked to close out the match, but St. Henry didn’t fade away. Versailles led by as many as four points before St. Henry tied the game at 14-14 then went up 17-14.
Versailles fought back to tie it at 18-18 then regained the lead, going up 22-18. St. Henry went on a 5-0 run to lead 23-22, but Versailles scored the final three points of the night to win the set 25-23 and claim a four-set victory in the match.
“It ended up being tight,” Bruggeman said of the fourth set. “We made good leads, but then we let them in right around the mid-teens. We got to a point where it was, OK, we’re either going to show up and finish in four or we’ll go into a fifth game with a really great team so I’m glad that we were able to pull it together and just rattle off those last couple of points.”
With Thursday’s win Versailles improved to 14-5 overall and 6-1 in the MAC while St. Henry fell to 16-3 overall and 5-2 in the conference.
Entering the final week of the regular season Versailles is in a three-way tie with Coldwater and New Bremen for the MAC lead, but Bruggeman isn’t worrying about the conference championship race – instead focusing on the quickly approaching Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament.
“MAC really isn’t my focus right now,” said Bruggeman, whose team has conference matches against Coldwater and Delphos St. John’s coming up next week. “We’re getting ready to go into tournament. I’d rather just see us getting better. That’s not really on my radar right now.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.