LEWISBURG – Both Tri-Village and Tri-County North have similar records; the Patriots entered Thursday’s match with eight wins and North entered the match with seven wins.
And at this stage of the season, the teams were jockeying for position in the middle of the league. With a match away from home at the end of the season, it would have been easy for the Patriots to mail it in and call it a night. But the team was resilient and played with pride.
It took five sets, and also playing from behind – but a “we are not quitting on this night” Patriots team rode home with the victory, spoiling North’s senior night. Scoring was 25-22, 14-25, 22-25, 25-17, 15-3.
The first set got off to a rocky start when the Patriots’ first serve was a net ball. But they recovered from that quickly and established a lead.
The set was all Patriots until late when they began to make mistakes and let the Panthers back in. At one point it was 20-all, but Tri-County North made a couple of mistakes and a kill by Alana Holsapple gave the Patriots some breathing room. The Patriots retained that lead to get that critical first win, 25-22.
But in the next set, they forgot what got them that first win – set, pass and spike. Tri-Village seemed out of sync and despite a couple of timeouts to try and reset the team, the Patriots never really mounted a challenge in an ugly 25-14 loss.
So now it was one win apiece. But the Patriots started the next set out slow and played poorly, spotting the Panthers a 5-0 lead to start the set.
Tri-Village woke up and went on a 7-2 run to tie the match at 7-all. Holsapple had back-to-back service aces during the rally and Abbi Lipps did much of the serving. So now it was game on. The set was tied two more times, but late in the set the Patriots gave away three points in a row due to mistakes.
Sophomore Maddie Downing made several good plays as the Patriots tried to rally back. She sent several vicious spikes over the net – with one hitting a North player square in the face. The crowd from both sides was loud as the two teams battled the last few points, but it was all in vain as the Patriots would fall short, 25-22.
“This is probably the best game she had all year,” Tri-Village volleyball coach Christopher Brewer said of Downing. “When she hits like that, she can hurt some girls. These last few games she has been getting smarter at the net. She is still just a sophomore, but she is making smart decisions and is getting comfortable at the net.”
So now Tri-Village was down 2-1, and this late in the season, it would have been easy to give up. But in the fourth set the Patriots played with determination and poise.
Downing made her presence felt, scoring the first two points. Then it was Autumn Moore’s turn to nail a couple of kills. Now the team was playing in sync. The ball was being set, passed and the front line made themselves heard. The Patriots did have a lapse and allowed the Panthers to tie at 15. But from there Tri-Village would score 10 and North just three as Edie Morris got the game-winning point.
And the fifth set was anti-climactic. The Patriots were able to keep their momentum and came out on the attack. Downing and Morris got the first two points, and the Patriots ratcheted up the score from there.
Despite several timeouts by the North coach, the Panthers never really mounted any comeback. Downing showed her strength by closing out the set with two sizzling kills, and the Patriots would head home with the victory, 15-3.
“We were two evenly matched teams,” Brewer said. “We went back and forth, and I can’t say enough about how the girls came back after being down two-one. They fought hard and in game four and game five – well, that is probably the best they played all year. They didn’t have to – they didn’t have to come out and play hard, but they did.
“We got sloppy on our setting in that second set. The passing was fairly good. But in the third game that was reversed. Our sets were good, but the passing was bad. I got the setters and took them aside after that second game and talked about what we needed to do – and we got better. And after the third game I did the same with the passers. Finally we all got on the same page.
“The front line did well most of the night. Alana Holsapple played well on the front line and served well. Autumn Moore had some big hits, particularly in the first game – she carried us. And Maddie Downing had some big hits that give us momentum – they can pick a team up.”
The Patriots finish the regular season against Fairlawn on Saturday, but next week these same two teams get to do it all again on Wednesday in the opening round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament as they square off in the opening round at 8 p.m. in Troy.
Unofficially, Downing had 16 kills, Morris nine, Holsapple eight and Moore six. Holsapple led the team in service aces, and Downing led the team in blocks.