Most teams would fold when facing a 2-0 deficit in the district championship with so much on the line, but the Wheelersburg Lady Pirates were able to rally and take sets three through five in impressive fashion to defeat Alexander and win the match 3-2 (15-25, 24-26, 25-15, 25-17, 15-12).
“Alexander’s coach has improved her team so much, they are fantastic” said Wheelersburg head coach Allen Perry following his team’s come from behind victory Friday night, “They were good before, but they came out and they were ready to play. I never had a doubt that my girls would show up. I didn’t think it would take two sets, really. But the girls never gave up. We had that second set and I thought if we were able to take that one, we would really take off and finish it. But in that third set, they showed up and they were determined. How about Mallory Bergan on the outside? We saw that blocker right in front of her and we told our girls to “Feed her, feed her, feed her”, every time that girl’s right in front of her, we wanted to get it to her because she can put it right over her, and she was doing that tonight.”
The Lady Pirates came off slower than usual in their first set trailing 16-9 at one point before ultimately falling in the first set by a margin of 25-15 to the Lady Spartans.
After starting off the set trailing at different points by margins of 12-6 and 20-14, the Lady Pirates rallied to take the lead at 23-22 forcing Alexander to use their first timeout of the match. The Lady Spartans came out of the timeout firing on all cylinders and were able to score four out of the final five points to take the set victory at 26-24 and take a 2-0 match advantage, a deficit that the 26-0 Wheelersburg team had not faced all season.
Almost as if a switch flipped for the Lady Pirates, they went on to play their best volleyball when their backs were against the wall in what would have been the sweeping set for Alexander. The Lady Pirates went on a scoring bonanza to win the third set and what would be their most decisive set of the night handily by a score of 25-15.
The fourth set was tight at the beginning, but in the end, just as they were able to do in the third set, the Lady Pirates pulled away by going on a 10-2 run to end the set and win the match tying set 25-17.
Heading into the fifth and final set in which the first team to fifteen wins, most spectators were sitting on the edge of their seats for the conclusion of this highly competitive district championship match. Wheelersburg fell behind 11-9 in the latter stages of the set, forcing Perry to use a timeout to attempt to rally his team. In an incredible shift in momentum, the Lady Pirates went on to score five of the final six points to win the final set 15-12 and secure their come from behind victory over Alexander to win the district championship and advance to next week’s regional semifinals in Logan.
As Perry mentioned, Mallory Bergan had an incredibly game for the Lady Pirates with a career high 22 kills and 25 digs. Also for Wheelersburg was Kylee Barney with seventeen kills, Alli McQuay with fifteen kills, and Emily Boggs with twelve kills. Senior setter Abbie Kallner had an incredible night for the Lady Pirates with 54 assists, while sophomore libero Lauren Jolly had the second most digs on the night with twenty. Wheelersburg’s top server was McQuay who had a 100% serving percentage with one ace and nine service points.
The Lady Pirates will advance to the regional semifinals next Thursday night where they will face Tuscarawas Valley in Logan at approximately 7:30 p.m. with a spot in the regional championship on the line.
“Last year we went up there and we learned a lot” said Perry when previewing next week’s regional semifinals, “Next week, I want to go up there and see if we are closing that gap. That’s what I want to see. Goal number one: we have to close that gap. Second, one of these days, that gap is going to be closed. Maybe it’ll be next week.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmith