If Galion and Pleasant weren’t considered rivals in volleyball before Tuesday’s epic, five-set match, they certainly are now.
The Lady Spartans fired the first salvo in the battle for the 2015 Mid Ohio Athletic Conference championship, taking down the defending co-champion Lady Tigers, 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 21-25, 15-9, at the PHS gymnasium.
Pleasant (3-0, 1-0 MOAC) and Galion (2-1, 0-1 MOAC), along with 2014 co-champion Jonathan Alder, were considered the top three programs in the MOAC heading into the 2015 campaign. Alder (7-0, 1-0 MOAC) opened defense of its share of the crown with a three-set victory over North Union on Tuesday.
A match to remember
After dropping both matches to Galion in 2014, Pleasant head coach Kortney Cleveland said Tuesday’s victory was crucial if her team is going to challenge for the MOAC crown this season.
“We came into this game really wanting it,” Cleveland said. “It was a no-brainer. We had to win this one if we want a piece of the MOAC. We brought it tonight, and that’s what we needed to do.”
Although disappointed with the setback, Galion head coach Jaime Valentine said the match was a great example of the quality of volleyball in the MOAC.
“This is one of the reasons why I just love this game,” she said. “It’s so intense and anything can happen. Momentum shifts play such a huge part.”
Indeed, momentum was the name of the game on Tuesday. Neither side was really able to gain a clear advantage in any of the five sets until the Lady Spartans went on a 7-2 surge in the final set to claim the match. Pleasant was clinging to an 8-7 edge when the pivotal run started.
In the first set, the largest lead held by either team was four points. Five points was the biggest lead secured by either team in the second, third and fourth sets. Despite the closely contested individual sets, Valentine said the Lady Tigers seemed to give up big rallies to Pleasant at the most inopportune times in the three sets her team lost.
“The runs killed us,” Valentine said. “And we had some missed serves at some key points in that first game, then later on at some crucial points. You can’t let a team like Pleasant get six, seven points on you in a row and not do anything about it.”
Cleveland said she was pleased with her team’s offensive production against Galion and also praised libero Anna Schmidt for her contributions to the big win.
“Summer Blevins in the front row, she is hard to defend,” Cleveland noted. “She gets above the block. If she gets a hold of the ball, that’s gonna be hard for them to defend. And Anna just pulls stuff up that should not come up. She works her tail off.”
Valentine said Galion’s overall defensive performance was solid, even in the face of Pleasant’s big hitters Blevins and Ciera Greene.
“That’s the best that we’ve played so far defensively,” Valentine said. “We did a good job keeping them out of system, for the most part. They have some big guns in the middle. I thought both Marisa (Gwinner) and Gabby (Abouhassan) did a great a job tonight, and they’re both rookies. I was very proud.”
Galion and Alder will meet for their first showdown of the new season Saturday on the Lady Tigers’ home court. Match time, appropriately enough, is high noon. The teams split the season series in 2014, with each winning on the other’s home court.
Pleasant is back in action on Thursday at Fairbanks. The Lady Spartans and Lady Pioneers don’t meet for the first time this season until Sept. 15. That match will be played in Plain City.
Reach Carter at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048, or on Twitter @ACGalionSports.