Barker tried hard to ‘stop the bleeding’
JACKSON — With a 2-0 advantage in sets and needing one more to secure a berth in Saturday’s OHSAA Division IV district final volleyball match at Jackson High, top-seeded Waterford High seemed almost a lock to advance this past Thursday night
But fifth-seeded Bainbridge Paint Valley proved to be an underdog with a bite, and rallied to defeat the Wildcats in the next three sets of the semi.
No one in green and white saw that coming.
Waterford won the the first two sets with relative ease. In fact, in the opening game, the Wildcats never trailed and won 25-17. In the second game, the Bearcats were more competitive and came back from a five-point deficit to tie the score at 14-all. It was at that moment WHS head coach Kim Barker called her first timeout of the match.
When play was resumed, the Wildcats regained the lead on Lily Roberts’ kill and never looked back, winning by nine points, 25-16.
Waterford was in great shape and poised to move on in tournament play. Paint Valley, on the other hand, needed to win the third set just to stay alive. The Bearcats had a pulse, but just barely.
Thing is, PV had kind of an ace in the hole in 6-foot-3 senior middle hitter Kelsey Dunn, who towered over everybody on the court. She’d had a relatively quiet first two sets at the net. But in the third set, Paint Valley’s “the sleeping giant” awoke and helped keep the Bearcats in the game — and the match.
Back and forth it went. After Ana-Sophia Beardsley’s kill gave WHS a 5-4 lead, Paint Valley called time out.
With the Bearcats leading 11-10, the Wildcats knotted it again on an Allex Tetters’ kill and then took a one-point lead on Denise Young’s kill.
Then, during one volley, Teters made a highlight film dig of a PV spike, which couldn’t have been more than a couple of inches off the floor.
After Paint Valley grabbed a 15-12 advantage, Waterford called time, and then came back to tie it at 16-all. The Wildcats then proceeded to take a 19-16 lead, forcing the Bearcats to call time.
And, wouldn’t you know it, PV came back out, tied it, and took a 20-19 lead.
Down 22-20, Waterford signaled time, and came back out to tie the score at 22-all on a Teters’ tip.
The Bearcats then closed out the set with a 3-0 run, capped by a monster slam by Dunn.
Waterford was still up, 2-1, but the momentum of the match appeared to have switched over to Paint Valley.
In the fourth set, the Bearcats jumped out to a quick 3-0 advantage and never looked back, winning 25-11. Trailing 11-3, Barker called time “to try to stop the bleeding” but to no avail.
Sparking the PV comeback were Lea McFadden, Savannah Smith, and of course Dunn, whose placement kill sent the match into a decisive fifth set.
Getting things started, Dunn gave the Bearcats a 1-0 lead on a kill. But the Wildcats tied it 1-1 when a PV volley went out. Paint Valley regained the advantage on Dunn’s placement kill, and then extended its lead to 7-2. Barker called her first of three timeouts in the final set.
Waterford was able to cut it to three, 9-6, but that turned out to be as close as it would get as the Bearcats would go on to win it by five, 15-10.
After congratulating Paint Valley, the Wildcats, except for the coaches, hurried to the locker room.
The Bearcats were ecstatic, and didn’t really want to leave the floor. In fact, they had a team picture taken of them, which was kind of unusual for a semifinal match.
But, I guess, it’s not every day that a fifth seed with an overall losing record upsets a top seed in tourney play.
Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org