La Plata vol­ley­ball loses in five sets to Patux­ent

Pan­thers rally to take fi­nal set

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @tblack­somds1

Per­haps it only seemed fit­ting that Mon­day’s fifth­set tiebreaker be­tween the Patux­ent High School vol­ley­ball team and vis­it­ing La Plata would go be­yond the typ­i­cal 15 points nec­es­sary to de­cide it.

La Plata had won the open­ing set, 28-26, only to watch Patux­ent win the next two sets, 25-11 and 25-22 be­fore the War­riors forced the fifth set by tak­ing the next set, 25-22.

With the fifth set tied at 15 af­ter La Plata had ear­lier owned an 8-3 lead and had failed twice to claim match point, Patux­ent libero Emma Po­teet ro­tated back to serve and calmly de­liv­ered for the Pan­thers.

Po­teet’s first serve came harm­lessly back across and Pan­thers se­nior set­ter Alex Heist lofted the ball to mid­dle hit­ter Jade McGrath for a 16-15 lead. Then af­ter Po­teet’s sec­ond serve was sent back over by the War­riors, Heist de­liv­ered the ball to se­nior out­side hit­ter Kayleigh Mur­phy who tipped the ball into a va­cancy just be­hind the La Plata front row for match point.

“It was stress­ful,” Po­teet said of go­ing back to serve with the fifth set tied at 15 and the out­come of the match hang­ing in the bal­ance. “I just wanted to make sure I got it over and made them put it in play. I was look­ing at the same spot on both serves. When Jade got the kill in the mid­dle I wasn’t quite as stressed for the sec­ond serve. Then Kayleigh came through with a tip.”

Dur­ing a fourth set that was tied on seven dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions and as late as 18-all, La Plata emerged vic­to­ri­ous to force a fifth set as se­nior set­ter Ava Krahling got the ball to out­side hit­ters Jayci Cham­ber­lain and Kelsey Hanks for cru­cial points late that en­abled the War­riors, who had wilted in the lat­ter stages of the sec­ond and third sets, to per­se­vere. In fact, with Hanks serv­ing it was Cham­ber­lain who de­liv­ered a Krahling set for the set-win­ning kill.

La Plata (8-2 over­all) ap­peared to carry the mo­men­tum into the fifth set, rac­ing to a 6-2 lead be­hind a pair of ser­vice aces from Krahling that forced Patux­ent head coach Kevin Keller to use his first time­out, then with Cham­ber­lain serv­ing Krahling lofted the ball to her in the back row for a kill that gave the War­riors an 8-3 lead that forced Keller to use his sec­ond and fi­nal time­out.

“Dur­ing that sec­ond time­out when it was 8-3, we just talked about get­ting back in it one point at a time,” Heist said. “We tried not to look at the score. We just wanted to keep mak­ing plays un­til we could find a way to come all the way back. Our serves were much bet­ter and I think that’s what fi­nally made the dif­fer­ence.”

Coin­ci­den­tally, it was a brief ser­vice run from Po­teet that got the Pan­thers back in it and later ser­vice win­ners from Mur­phy and McGrath brought the Pan­thers even at 11 and one from Heist that in­cluded a kill from Jas­mine John­son off a Heist set, gave the Pan­thers their first lead of the set at 13-12. But La Plata drew even on a kill from Cham­ber­lain off a Krahling set.

Then with Krahling serv­ing the War­riors reached match point first cour­tesy of an­other Cham­ber­lain kill off a set from Krahling. But Krahling’s next serve sailed deep, then John­son’s next serve hit the net and Cham­ber­lain served for match point only to watch a kill at­tempt from the back row off an­other Krahling set sailed past the end line, set­ting the stage for Po­teet’s two win­ners that sealed it.

“It’s al­ways great play­ing in th­ese close matches,” said La Plata ju­nior mid­dle hit­ter Sa­man­tha Faleno­foa, whose pres­ence in the mid­dle of­ten al­tered the Pan­thers’ at­tack strat­egy. “We have a lot of good com­pe­ti­tion in the con­fer­ence. Our [Class 2A South] re­gion play­offs are go­ing to be re­ally com­pet­i­tive.”

Patux­ent (8-2) had ral­lied from a 19-11 hole and late 23-20 deficit in the first set to draw even at 24, 25 and 26 be­fore kills from Hanks and Faleno­foa fi­nally pro­pelled the War­riors to a 28-26 vic­tory.

Patux­ent gained the up­per hand mid­way through the sec­ond set with McGrath serv­ing for a 13-7 lead and fol­low­ing a se­ries of side­outs it was Pan­thers south­paw Alyssa Eells who closed out the set with seven straight win­ners, in­clud­ing a pair of aces for a 25-11 vic­tory.

The third and fourth sets fea­tured mod­est ser­vice runs and a bevy of side­out points. Patux­ent ended the third set with three straight points af­ter the match was tied for the sixth time at 22. With McGrath serv­ing for the Pan­thers, Heist set John­son for a kill that ended the set and lifted the hosts to a 2-1 lead in the match.

The fourth set was promptly tied on seven dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions, the last at 19, but this time it was ser­vice runs from Alyssa Gayon and Syd­ney Bales that lifted the War­riors to a 25-22 vic­tory.

With Hanks serv­ing, Krahling set Cham­ber­lain for the set point kill that forced the fifth-set tiebreaker, one that the War­riors ap­peared to have well in con­trol when they owned an 8-3 lead early.

“We had too many ser­vice er­rors and at­tack er­rors,” La Plata head coach Ash­ley Buchanan said. “When they played ag­gres­sively, they scored points. But later in the match when they started play­ing a lit­tle pas­sive, they didn’t stay in sync. I thought Kelsey re­ally had a great match hit­ting on the out­side and Sa­man­tha was great in the mid­dle, but we had too many un­forced er­rors.”

Keller and his play­ers ap­plauded Heist for her sets and tact­ful de­ci­sion mak­ing at the net. Aware of where Faleno­foa was play­ing, Heist would ei­ther loft the ball to McGrath, John­son, Mur­phy or Eells and most times the Pan­thers at­tack­ers de­liv­ered with cru­cial kills.

“She has great hands,” said Mur­phy, who had been the team’s set­ter the pre­vi­ous three sea­sons un­til Heist ar­rived this fall from Colorado. “A lot of the passes the ball would come to her with some crazy spins and she would still set the ball to one of us. She’s amaz­ing.”

STAFF PHOTO BY TED BLACK

La Plata High School vol­ley­ball coaches and play­ers hud­dle prior to the start of Mon­day’s match at Patux­ent. La Plata suf­fered its sec­ond straight loss on Mon­day af­ter the Pan­thers ral­lied to pre­vail in the fifth set tiebreaker.

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