Tigers win fifth set, edge Sea­hawks in thrilling vol­ley­ball show­down

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS -

— The only ques­tion on ev­ery­one’s mind be­fore Mon­day night’s vol­ley­ball matchup be­tween Ris­ing Sun and Delaware Mil­i­tary Academy was, who would win the fifth set?

In a re­match be­tween a pair of state cham­pi­ons, the con­test was as thrilling as ad­ver­tised, with Ris­ing Sun com­ing away with the non-con­fer­ence vic­tory, 17-25, 25-23, 25-23, 24-26, 15-7. The fi­nal game was an odd ex­cep­tion, as the Tigers took con­trol from the be­gin­ning. Af­ter the Sea­hawks’ fi­nal shot went wide, Ris­ing Sun’s stu­dent sec­tion sur­rounded the play­ers while jump­ing and cheer­ing.

“They ab­so­lutely love the noise and the en­ergy the crowd brings,” said Tigers head coach Rich Wil­son, who led his team to its first win over a Delaware school in his 17 years at the helm. “It’s a mir­ror im­age of what we did last year against them (a 3-2 win by DMA and Ris­ing Sun’s only loss of the year). Both teams are built ba­si­cally the same way on out­side hit­ting. Half of my team and half their team play club to­gether, so it’s not like we don’t know each other.”

Out­side hit­ter Lacey Swartout led the Tigers with 25 kills and came in hun­gry to cre­ate a dif­fer­ent out­come.

NORTH EAST

“It feels so amaz­ing be­cause we lost to them last year. This was our time to prove our­selves,” she said.

It took Ris­ing Sun (2-0) some time to find its foot­ing, as sev­eral ser­vice er­rors helped the Sea­hawks build an early lead that they wouldn’t re­lin­quish in the first set.

“I told the girls af­ter the first game, ‘this is go­ing fine,’” Wil­son said. “We just needed to set­tle down and get ready for the long haul.”

The Tigers took their first lead in the sec­ond set and de­spite seven ties, they never trailed. They shored up their serv­ing, Swartout and Bre­anne Ha­ley’s swings came alive and the block­ing tan­dem of Macken­zie Blevins and Maddy Eck­erd forced the Sea­hawks out of their rhythm.

Af­ter fall­ing be­hind 14-7 in Game 3, Ris­ing Sun stormed back with a 12-3 run and hung on to win by two. The Tigers had a chance to end an the match in an un­com­fort­ably close fourth set, but DMA hung on to tie it up.

The hosts played like a group pos­sessed in the de­cid­ing game. Swartout and Ha­ley each had three kills to pad their lead.

Swartout said Wil­son had a few sim­ple words for the team af­ter the fourth set.

“Coach pretty much said, ‘keep a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and keep smil­ing and that’ll lead the way,’” she said.

Vic­to­ria Tay­lor notched a game-best 15 kills for the Sea­hawks.

As Ris­ing Sun con­tin­ues its quest for another state cham­pi­onship, the play­ers have an ex­tra boost of con­fi­dence af­ter match­ing up against the best from their neigh­bor­ing state.

“We have a lot of con­fi­dence, but we have to stay hum­ble,” Eck­erd said. “Ev­ery team is dif­fer­ent. We just have to keep up the en­ergy and play strong.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY KEVIN PHILLIPS

Ris­ing Sun se­nior out­side hit­ter Bre­anne Ha­ley goes up for a ball dur­ing her team’s 3-2 vic­tory over vis­it­ing Delaware Mil­i­tary Academy in non-con­fer­ence vol­ley­ball ac­tion on Mon­day.

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