In a word, it was amazing.
That was how Corinth Holders sophomore Jamie Turner described the feeling she had after her kill shot went off the hands of a Cleveland blocker and landed wide to give the Pirates a 3-2 victory Thursday in a Two Rivers 3A Conference volleyball match.
That word could also be applied to the match, a back-and-forth battle that saw each team come from behind. The momentum swung like a pendulum, finally landing on the Pirates’ side when they held off yet another Cleveland rally to win the final set 15-13.
“That was a great match,” said Corinth Holders coach Charles Riley, whose team moved into a tie with Cleveland for third place in the conference with a 4-4 league record. “I just had a feeling it was going to go into game five for some reason tonight.
“We do drills in practice to put our team in a disadvantage and see if they can fight back. I said, ‘This is no different than what we do in practice.’ ”
Corinth Holders (7-7 overall) struck first, winning the first set 25-18. Cleveland seized control by winning the next two sets 25-23 and 25-15.
Cleveland (12-5) jumped to a 4-1 lead in the fourth set and appeared ready to put Corinth Holders away with a 21-16 lead. The Rams were up 23-20 when the Pirates pounced – scoring five straight points to win 25-23.
“That is exactly what we practice, trying to score five points before the other team scores two,” Riley said. “And that’s what we did tonight.”
Turner had a pair of kills in the five-point run and 6-foot junior Katelyn Leach (who had a match-high 23 kills and four blocks) also had a kill.
It came down to a 15-point fifth set, and Corinth Holders seized the momentum when the score was tied at 6-6. The Pirates scored five straight points to go ahead 11-6, but Cleveland was not going down easily.
The Rams score four straight points to pull within 11-10. Down 14-12, the Rams edged within 14-13 on Wallie Driggers’ team-high 16th kill. Marina Roe had 15 kills for the Rams.
On Cleveland’s next serve, the Pirates made a good pass to the front line and the ball was set to Turner on the left side. She smashed the ball over the net and off the hands of a Cleveland blocker for the winner – a 15-13 ending to a classic five-setter.
“I was thinking we have been playing as a team the whole match,” said Turner, who had 15 kills. “We deserved to win this game. We played our best game (of the season).”
The victory earned Corinth Holders a split of their two regular-season matches with Cleveland and gave the Pirates hopes for a postseason shot with two regular-season matches left.
“I’m just proud of the girls,” Riley said. “If it had gone the other way, I still would have been proud of them for the way they competed, the way they fought.”
Cleveland coach Shelley Johnston echoed Riley’s words, calling a marathon duel “a great match.”
“We lost for the same reason we have lost the whole year and that is the mental part of the game,” Johnston said. “Unfortunately, they have to learn that they need to be mentally strong.
“I am definitely proud of the way they battled.”