Before the St. Paul volleyball team knew what had happened, it trailed visiting Western Reserve by a 17-6 margin in the first set of Tuesday’s Firelands Conference match in Norwalk.
The Roughriders were able to close out a 25-18 win to take a 1-0 lead in the match, nearly made an improbable rally in Game 2 — and were tied at 15 in Game 3.
However, the Lady Flyers recovered nicely to win each of the next three games to earn the win, 25-20, 25-17, 25-20. With the victory, St. Paul — ranked No. 16 in the first Division IV state coaches poll — improved to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the FC.
Western fell to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the FC.
“Western came in here with some confidence after going four with Crestview last week,” St. Paul coach Nancy Miller said. “They have a good group of athletic kids over there, and they came in here ready to play.”
The Lady Flyers were in complete control of the second set, racing out to an 18-9 lead — then extending it to 24-12. But between Morgan White and Emma Weber, the ‘Riders were able to string together eight straight points — putting St. Paul on its heels.
Finally, up 24-20, an unforced error gave the 25-20 win to St. Paul.
In Game 3, Western was up 12-9 looking for a chance to seize control of the match. But combined with some unforced errors and a couple solid kills from Anna Lukasko and Danielle Smith, the Lady Flyers took a 15-14 lead.
It was tied at 15 when St. Paul scored seven straight points, as Western was called for a lift, and Kamryn Maxwell tipped over a ball and put down another for a kill.
Leading 24-17, a hit by Sarah Matlack put away the 25-17 win.
The fourth game played out pretty similar to the third. St. Paul was up 9-6 after an ace by Maxwell, and led 14-10 when a well-placed lob by Lukasko found the floor.
But trailing 24-16, Western again didn’t go quietly — pulling within 23-20. It was then St. Paul put away two points for the 25-20 win to seal the match.
“There were times I felt like we were just completely out of system, but I’d look up at the scoreboard and we’d be ahead by a few points,” Miller said. “I just don’t feel like we stepped on the floor and commanded the presence like we have in some of our other matches this year.
“But I felt in warm ups even, the kids were just off,” she added. “Hopefully we can figure out this lull that they are in right now and get them back on track. But I just don’t feel like we’re on track right now.”
Meanwhile, Western Reserve coach Lisa Muenz sees a team that is close — but needs to find some consistency.
“I think what happens with our team is they hustle and play with a lot of heart, but we have to work on consistency,” she said. “We don’t attack aggressively, consistent enough. I think it was a good night and we improved.
“To finish with 17 kills against St. Paul, which always plays strong defense, is very good,” Muenz added. “But if we can develop more consistency and get stronger at the net, and build on these last two matches with Crestview and St. Paul, I think we can improve every single time.”
White finished with 10 kills and 24 digs for Western, with Weber adding four blocks. Hannah Burke served 11 points, had 16 digs, and was 87-of-88 setting with 17 assists.
Also for the ‘Riders, Jessa Riley served 12 points. Western is at South Central on Thursday.
“Hannah has just been so solid, she leaves it on the court every time,” Muenz said. “Her and Morgan White have just played outstanding in this recent stretch.
“But we have nine girls on this team, and they have all contributed,” she added. “We’ll get back in the gym and work on the weaknesses we saw tonight. We’re not going to give up.”
For St. Paul, Maxwell finished with 16 kills and 18 digs. Megan Hammersmith had 10 kills, served 13 points (one ace), and added 18 assists and 15 digs.
Lukasko had 12 kills, and Holly Powers added 10.
Also for the Lady Flyers, Kennedy Stang had 32 digs, while Dyllan Knoll had 23 assists and served 12 points withi an ace. Lauren Chandler added 10 points with an ace.
Despite the shaky start and at times erratic play, Miller saw her team push through.
“I did see a confidence in them when things did get tight in that key third game,” she said. “They were definitely playing and trying to do some aggressive things at the net.
“They did a good job of, once they settled in after Game 1, trying to pick their defense apart,” Miller added. “The hitters did a good job of mixing things up and the setters did a good job of moving the ball around.”