SHINGLE SPRINGS — Leave it to intra-county rivals Oak Ridge and Ponderosa to extend a volleyball match to five games and, when that’s not enough, overtime.
The Trojans’ never-say-die attitude paid off Tuesday in rallying from a 2-1 deficit to defeat the host Bruins 25-19, 21-25, 19-25, 25-21, 18-16 in Delta River League action.
Oak Ridge trailed late in game No. 4 before mounting its comeback. Troy’s 7-0 run, fueled by senior Arden Zuber, turned a 17-12 Ponderosa lead into a Trojan advantage, and the play of Mysha Davies drove the win home as the Trojans forced the winner-take-all fifth and deciding game.
“I just feel like we wanted it so bad. We have four seniors (herself, Alexa Becker, Haley Simmons, Stephanie Guest) who weren’t going to let this one go,” Zuber said. “Ponderosa is our biggest rival and it was a real fight (on the court) but we had the confidence to play our game and get the job done.”
Two weeks ago Oak Ridge would have folded but the team has turned the corner thanks to its consolation title at the recent Super 8 Tournament where the Trojans defeated Christian Brothers and Napa, two programs that beat Oak Ridge earlier this season. While it didn’t look good at times Tuesday against Ponderosa, the Trojans stayed with it — getting key contributions off the bench from Guest, Helena Strube, Amelia Crye, Rachael McVicar and Maddie McGeorge — to catch and pass the Bruins.
“There’s no real MVP in this match; it was a team win. Everyone contributed at key points in the game,” Oak Ridge coach Becky Potter said. “We have a deep bench and I was trying to find the right combination. In the past I might have hesitated (to substitute) but now I have confidence. Tonight we let our mistakes go, didn’t dwell on them and that was important to our success.”
The Trojans’ path to victory had to go through Ponderosa’s 6-foot, 2-inch middle hitter Lianna Sybeldon, setter Alex Mettler and teammates Hailey Bellmer, Layne Davidson, Lindsey Bowles and Ali Lindsey who dropped the first game but regrouped to get the next two and were on the verge of winning in four until Zuber-Simmons-Becker and Co. battled back.
Tuesday’s match was the Bruins’ annual Dig Pink event and the gymnasium was awash in the color pink, including the girls’ warmup outfits and those who attended in support of breast cancer awareness. The day had extra meaning for Mettler who lost her mother a year ago to cancer.
“This event is very special to me — it’s a cause not just a game. We put it on and I’m very disappointed we lost,” said Mettler who Ponderosa coach Sheri Millhollin calls the “heart and soul” of the Bruins’ team. “I think we let the atmosphere get to us. Big crowd against our archenemy and we were nervous and didn’t perform to our full potential. We were in the driver’s seat but lost control of the car.”
Ponderosa did control to open the fifth set as Mettler assisted Sybeldon who laid out her bag of tricks; two powerful kills, a tip over the block and a push to the corner as the Bruins opened a 5-1 lead.
“This win is so amazing. We wouldn’t have done this at the beginning of the year,” said Becker after the match. “Winning the fourth game gave us the momentum and this win just shows how mentally tough we’ve become.”
Becker, with defensive help from Maddie Chambliss and Nicolette Tsivikas, helped her team chip away and a combination of Ponderosa errors and Trojan kills enabled the visitors to pull even and push ahead 12-8. An Oak Ridge net violation stopped Troy’s run and Bellmer’s block and shaky serve receive by the El Dorado Hills’ squad tightened the score.
Sybeldon’s kill placed the Bruins within 12-13 and her tap down of a stray appeared legit until the whistle blew to signal she was too far over the net. Bellmer’s kill got that point back and a costly four-hit infraction by Oak Ridge sent the set to overtime.
Simmons blocked Sybeldon for the lead but Sybeldon’s tip over Simmons retied it. After Simmons and Bowles traded kills, Becker landed one and after a rally at match point, Ponderosa’s hit nicked the pole to end it.
“We beat ourselves in game four. You don’t get up that many points and give the other team momentum they can take into the fifth game,” Millhollin said. “The strategy was good, we just have some lineup issues we need to fix, work on our coverage and mix up our sets.”