The word “battle” is probably one of the most overused — and possibly misused — terms in sports journalism and broadcasting.
To say that Tuesday’s Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference volleyball match between Galion and Marion Harding was a battle; well, now that would be appropriate use of the word. The Tigers (7-3, 3-2 MOAC) rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to capture the final two sets and win the match, 23-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-18, 15-13.
“I have got to give props to (Marion Harding),” said Galion head coach Jaime Valentine. “Huge, huge 180 (degree) improvement from last year for that team. Defensively they were scrappy. It was a great match. It was fun.”
Indeed, the 2014 season was a struggle for the Presidents, which finished with a 4-18 overall record and an 0-14 mark in MOAC Red Division play. Harding head coach Ryan Treese was visibly emotional about his team’s performance after the match.
“I was really proud of how we played,” said Treese, who is in his first season at Harding. “Game two and game four, we got down 9-1, 10-1, 12-4, and we fought back to make those 25-20 and 25-18. Last year, from what they’ve told me, those games would’ve been 25-12. We showed some fight. We lost game two, we came back and won game three. I cannot give my team enough credit for that, especially after what they went through last year.”
Back and forth match
Galion rolled to a 6-1 lead in the opening set, but the Presidents rallied to take an 11-10 lead. The Tigers regained the lead, 15-14, but Harding outscored Galion 10-9 down the stretch to take a 1-0 advantage.
The second set saw the two sides trade points until the game was tied at 11. Galion then pieced together a 9-2 run to pull ahead for good, 20-13. Harding trimmed the gap to 23-20, but the Tigers regained the serve to put the set away and tie the match, 1-1.
Harding (2-8, 2-3 MOAC) bolted to an 8-1 lead in set three, but Galion rallied to take the lead on six occasions before the Presidents regained the advantage at 22-21 and then tallied three consecutive points on serve to win the set and take a 2-1 lead. There were a total of 10 lead changes in the third set.
Set four saw Galion lead from the first serve to the final point. The closest that Harding came in the set was when the score was 1-0 and 2-1 in favor of Galion. The Tigers built their lead to as many as 10 points before winning by seven to tie the match at two sets apiece.
Neither side seemed to gain a clear advantage in the fifth set, until Galion surged ahead, 13-10. However, Harding pulled to within one point twice (13-12 and 14-13) before the Tigers tallied the final point.
“It was huge for us, because with the inexperienced players that we have, this was a huge confidence booster,” Valentine noted. “On top of some other things that we’ve been working on, confidence is a big one. Every single point I want them going out there, hitting confidently, hitting aggressively, making sure that they’re in the game. They need to be watching the other side of the court and understanding where they’re supposed to be defensively. They did much better tonight.”
Treese noted that the back and forth nature of Tuesday’s match was somewhat unusual in his experience as a coach, given the changes to the sport in recent years.
“It was real tough for both sides,” Treese said. “We both really fought for every single point. There were five or six rallies that went over and back at least six times. You don’t really see that at any level anymore with all the hitters everybody has.”
By the numbers
Galion’s Taylor Valentine recorded a match-best 28 kills, 23 digs and four aces. She was a perfect 27-for-27 passing and finished 26-for-27 on serve receive.
Marisa Gwinner tallied 27 kills and a team-high eight blocks. She was 19-for-19 passing.
Bradlee Saterfield ended the match with 58 assists and made good on 170-of-175 passing attempts. Ashley Flowers enjoyed a perfect night passing (22-for-22) and on serve receive (26-for-26). She recorded 21 digs and was 23-for-24 serving. Dusty Thomas added 14 digs and Callie Wildenthaler finished with 11 digs.
Taylor McIntire led Harding with 21 kills and 11 blocks. Shiniya Mallory added 12 kills and Chloe Richardson tallied 11 kills. Regan Endsley led the Presidents with 30 assists and Alexus Holmes dished out 24. Shelbie Howard had 19 digs and Faith McGinn added 11. Whitney Starner had eight blocks.
Galion plays host to North Union on Thursday. The Lady Wildcats (5-3, 3-3 MOAC) dropped a five-set thriller to Fairbanks on Tuesday. The Panthers (4-5, 2-3 MOAC) overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat North Union, 16-25, 22-25, 27-25, 25-22, 15-9.
Marion Harding travels to Pleasant on Thursday. The Lady Spartans (6-2, 4-1 MOAC) lost to Jonathan Alder in three sets, 15-25, 14-25, 11-25. The Pioneers (11-0, 5-0 MOAC) remained undefeated with the win.