By BRANDON HURLEY
GLIDDEN – Three points were all that kept Paton-Churdan from completing yet another stirring comeback.
In the end, Glidden-Ralston’s balanced offense and crisp service game was too much for the Rockets to handle, as they dropped a first round regional match in four sets, 3-1 Tuesday, Oct. 16.
G-R (13-9) rode a late fourth-set rally to secure victory, knocking off P-C (8-15) to advance to the second round of 1A region 3 volleyball action.
Trailing 22-21 in the fourth set and in danger of witnessing a two-set advantage evaporate, G-R head coach McKaylie Croghan pulled her girls together and keyed in on a few points. She wanted her athletes to pick up the pace, show a bit more passion while driving home the proverbial nail in the coffin.
“We talked about how we needed to keep moving our feet,” the coach said. “For a couple of those points, I felt we were hitting flat-footed. And (P-C) was tipping a lot, so we needed to make sure we were running in to get that tip.”
Paton-Churdan sophomore Danielle Hoyle posed quite the tall challenge in the final set, as her height allowed her to lurk over the net and place the ball in spots where the Wildcats weren’t. Her spirited play pushed the Rockets a 7-0 run for a 14-11 lead, inching closer to the match tie.
In the end, P-C’s notorious late-game comeback fell short, as their offensive magic ran out while G-R’s defense tightened.
The Wildcats dominated the opening two sets, taking advantage of several Rocket errors and mishits while riding a strong service game.
The Wildcats captured set one with relative ease, 25-13, before things got interesting. G-R prevailed in a tense second set, 25-22 before P-C woke up.
Rocket head coach Tom Kennedy felt nerves may have gotten to several of his seniors, knowing they could be setting foot on the court for the final time.
“There’s a lot of pressure on that last game,” the coach said. “We got over it and played pretty well but couldn’t give ourselves that score to win.”
The Rockets stormed to a third set win, riding a 9-0 run to take control. They made things even more interesting in the fourth, taking a late lead as the final frame settled into a back-and-forth display of high-level volleyball intensity.
G-R won the final set, 25-23, closing on a 4-1 to pull out the victory. The Wildcats ability to fend off the Rockets was the difference-maker, Kennedy felt. P-C made too many errors along the way, either on mishit returns, poor passes or lackluster serves.
“They were better than us tonight and they deserve to win,” the coach said.
Tuesday’s loss marked the final game for an impact duo of Megan Carey and Jenna Beyers. The pair compiled several hundred kills between the two of them throughout their four years, with Carey continually at the top of the RVC. Though they never could get the Rockets quite over that playoff hump, the duo leaves behind a substantial impact on the volleyball program.
“It’s been a real joy, a real help for me as a new coach,” Kennedy said, referencing when he stepped in as head coach during their junior season. “For their leadership and everything they did. I’m really proud of the example they set and they did a great job.”
Carey finished the regular season third in the Rolling Valley Conference with a career-high 229 kills while Hoyle came in ninth with 141. Hoyle led the league in aces with 60 (T-7th in 1A) while teammate Tessa Steimel was eighth (34). Beyers led the Rockets with 187 digs, which was eighth-best in the RVC. She also tallied 18 blocks.