By John Burbridge firstname.lastname@example.org
CLARKSVILLE — After winning the first two sets of their volleyball season-opener against Clarksville on Tuesday, the Rockford Warriors found themselves with their backs against the wall.
The hosting Indians rallied to win the following two sets forcing a fifth to decide the match. That’s where Clarksville took a 14-10 lead — a point away from winning it all.
“But our girls didn’t give up,” Rockford head coach Hannah Kemp said after her Warriors won the extended fifth set, 21-19, for the non-conference match victory.
“They fought to the very end.”
Even after a series of kills by junior middle hitter Kayla Carroll, who led Rockford in kills last season as a sophomore; and a blocking kill by senior Jamie Schuster, who is the Warriors’ returning blocks leader, helped put Rockford up 16-15 with the need to win by 2, it still didn’t look like it was going to be the Warriors’ night.
During three-straight “ad-in” opportunities, Rockford squandered them with service errors.
Finally on the fourth attempt, junior Amber Reams slapped in an ace for the elusive winner.
During an interview after she took over the Rockford’s program last season, Kemp said that volleyball tends to resemble a rollercoaster ride with teams negotiating peaks and valleys throughout their matches. The Warriors-Indians encounter definitely had its share of ups and downs as well as a few corkscrews in between to where it would have likely required an “E Ticket” to get on board.
In the first set, Rockford was down 21-18 and was having trouble mounting an attack above the net. That all changed when Schuster was able to pound a resounding spike on an Indian defender, who — in an act more of self-defense — was able to return the shot over the net only to have Schuster quickly ascend again for another pounding to belatedly put the point away.
That helped turn the tide for the Warriors, who won the first set 25-22.
“Winning that first set was big for us,” Kemp said. “You always want to win that first set of the season.”
In the second set, the Indians took an 11-7 lead thanks in part to several aces served up by sophomore libero Cheyenne Behrends. (If Behrends’ team nickname is not “Wild Thing”, they’re missing an opportunity as her 99 Indians jersey bears a striking resemblance to that worn by Charlie Sheen’s Ricky Vaughn character in the movie Major League)
Rockford was able to take the lead after four-straight service points by Sierra Kuhlers, and eventually won the set, 25-19, when Mackenzie LaCoste assisted the winning kill by Reams.
Clarksville responded by winning the third set, 25-22, then evened the match at two sets apiece after three aces by Kylie Smith helped cap the fourth set at 25-16.
Kemp credits the team’s defense for pulling out the five-set victory. Senior libero Jenna Paulus led Rockford’s defense with 29 kills.
“We’re a good defensive team, and we have a lot of team chemistry,” Kemp said. “We also have a lot of team leaders.”