Tigers win fifth set, edge Seahawks in thrilling volleyball showdown
— 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.
“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.”
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.