By Bill Christner
GARDEN VALLEY — It was a battle royale between the Golden Sierra and Oak Ridge volleyball teams Tuesday in Garden Valley.
At the end of of the night the Trojans left the Rod Hedlund gym winners with a hard-fought 25-18, 25-20, 15-25, 18-25, 15-13 victory.
The tiebreaker was a tight contest with eight ties and five lead changes as both squads swung away. Trailing 12-13, Troy breathed a collective sigh of relief after a Grizzly serve sailed long, Oak Ridge captain Alexa Becker tooled a block and a violation put the match in the books for Oak Ridge.
“Last week we would have lost that fifth set,” Trojan coach Becky Potter said. “We didn’t practice yesterday. (Instead) we had an hour and a half meeting where we talked things through. It was very therapeutic. We have struggled with our composure a bit so tonight was good for us; it should help us calm ourselves in tight situations.”
After Oak Ridge took the first two games, Golden Sierra rallied to win the next two and force the winner-take-all fifth game.
Trojan Haley Simmons’ crosscourt shot evened the score at 1-1 in the deciding set. After Grizzly Katie Christner pounded a kill, Simmons’s block and tip had Oak Ridge in front.
It was close from there. Golden Sierra leaned on the play of Caitlin Hess, Christner and Abigail Wever to keep pace while Oak Ridge used clutch plays from Simmons, Becker, Maddie Chambliss and Nicolette Tsivikas to challenge. After an epic rally, the score stood at 12-all before the Trojans regrouped to pull out the win
Both teams were out of sync early in game one. After fighting to a slim 11-10 advantage, the Trojans got help from eight Grizzly earros and Simmons’ two kills to post a 6-1 run.
After a timeout, Golden Sierra responded and closed the gap to four on Alexis Hall’s kill off the block, Brittany Tillotson’s ace and a couple Trojan errors. But Grizzly woes continued and Oak Ridge took the opener.
Poor play continued to haunt Golden Sierra in game two and Troy capitalized. doubling up on the Grizzlies 14-7 before Golden Sierra coach Justin Cox called time.
Christner’s tool of the block after the timeout and Jamie Hinton’s roll shot cut the deficit but Becker answered with a kill and junior Helena Strube caught the Griz napping on a quick attack in the middle to go back up 19-11.
Golden Sierra closed within four behind Christner’s three kills, Tiffany Grey’s second-touch dump and Hall’s crosscourt shot before Oak Ridge sealed the win on a Becker-Simmons block.
Both teams committed errors at the start of the third game before the Grizzlies went up 10-5. With momentum on the Griz side of the floor, Hall sandwiched two kills around Hinton’s smash of a Trojan overpass and Wever stuffed Tara McDermott for a 19-10 lead. The teams traded sideouts the rest of the way before Golden Sierra iced the win.
The Grizzlies raced out to a 13-4 advantage in the fourth game. Potter put Maddie DeGeorge in to set but Golden Sierra’s lead continued to grow on Christner’s block, her back-row kill and her ace on the tape for a 19-8 lead.
Once play resumed after an Oak Ridge timeout, the Trojans went on an 8—2 run behind Mysha Davies’ crosscourt shot, DeGeorge’s dump and Becker’s kill before Cox called time. Four Trojan errors helped the Grizzlies tie the match at two games apiece and send it to the tiebreaker.
“We caught some momentum in the third set and it carried through games four and five,” Cox said. “But we continue to fall short. We lack confidence and aren’t playing to win yet; we’re just out there playing and there’s a big difference between the two.
“Overall our leadership is too quiet. When we’re playing poorly there’s no noise from the bench. Our seniors are waiting for someone else to make a move. It’s time for them to step up.”
Golden Sierra was led by Christner (17 kills, 22 digs, two aces); Hinton (11 kills, 10 digs); Hess (five kills, two solo blocks, two aces); Wever (six kills, three solo blocks); and Grey (33 assists, 16 digs, four kills).
Oak Ridge was led by Simmons with 11 kills; Becker (four kills); and Alex Zuber, Stephanie Guest and Davies with two kills each.
The Grizzlies open league play tomorrow on the road at Encina while the Trojans are at this weekend’s Archbishop Mitty Invitational.