Pleasant appeared to be well on its way to a three-set victory over Galion after winning the first two sets, 25-23, 25-19, of their Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division volleyball match on Thursday evening.
But, as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving.
The Tigers (10-3, 6-2 MOAC) pulled out 25-19 and 25-20 wins in sets three and four, respectively, then went on a 6-3 run to capture the fifth and deciding set, 15-12, to win the match.
“We’ve been waiting for this night,” Galion head coach Jaime Valentine said in the moments following the emotional match.
Pleasant (8-3, 6-2 MOAC) won a five-set match against Galion in the first MOAC match of the season on Sept. 1 in Marion.
“It was a nice match that we had at their place, going five (sets),” Valentine said. “Ever since then, our team has been chomping at the bit to have have another shot at them. I’m glad they got that opportunity.”
After a tight first set, Pleasant pulled away from Galion early in the second set, building as much as a 10-point lead. The Tigers pulled to within five points twice down the stretch, but the Spartans hung on to win by six, leaving Galion in what seemed like an insurmountable 2-0 hole.
“We were struggling big time,” Valentine said in regard to her team’s play in the first two sets. “It just shows how far they’ve come, because at the beginning of the season we would not have been able to come back from that. We were in that situation with Willard early on, but it wasn’t that kind of intensity.”
The third set was a nip-and-tuck affair early until Galion went on a 6-0 run that snapped a 9-9 tie and gave the Tigers a 15-9 cushion. Galion maintained the lead for the remainder of the set, but Pleasant closed the gap to two points on two occasions to make things interesting.
“Defensively, they stepped up,” Valentine noted. “Toward the end of the third game we had some great digs.”
The fourth set was also closely contested. With the set tied at 17, Galion pieced together a 7-3 run to close it out and tie the match at two games each. The Tigers used a 6-3 burst in the fifth set to put the match away.
Galion senior Taylor Valentine took over in the fourth and fifth sets on her way to a huge statistical night. She recorded 36 kills, 37 digs and three blocks to pace the Tiger rally. Fellow senior Bradlee Saterfield had 56 assists and 14 digs. Marisa Gwinner finished with 22 kills and five blocks. Ashley Flowers recorded 24 digs and Callie Wildenthaler had 12 digs.
“Taylor lit it up tonight,” said Valentine. “Bradlee was smart with where she put the ball and Marisa kind of came alive there at the end. They made some big plays. We started picking up the little tips (at the net) that we’ve been preaching about all season and they’re finally getting the hang of it. I was really proud of them.”
The victory over Pleasant extended Galion’s MOAC winning streak to six consecutive matches, dating back to a Sept. 10 sweep of Fairbanks. The Tigers have won their last five matches since falling to Western Reserve on Sept. 12 at the Shelby Invitational.
The most demanding week of the regular season now awaits the Tigers, who are scheduled to play four matches from Monday to Saturday. Three of the four matches are against teams ranked in the latest Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association Top 20 polls.
The gauntlet begins on Monday with a home match against Edison (10-1), ranked No. 10 in Div. III. On Tuesday, Galion travels to Plain City to face Jonathan Alder (14-0), the No. 3-ranked squad in Div. II. The Tigers travel to River Valley (3-8) on Thursday, then close out the week on Saturday at Buckeye Central (10-3), a ballclub ranked No. 13 in Div. IV.
Galion def. Buckeye Valley, 25-13, 25-9, 25-11
Galion swept Buckeye Valley on Tuesday in Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference volleyball play. The Tigers cruised, 25-13, 25-9, 25-11.
Marisa Gwnner recorded 14 kills and Taylor Valentine pounded 10 kills to lead the Galion attack. Gwinner and Valentine each had three blocks.
Valentine accounted for 13 points and five aces on serve. Bradlee Saterfield finished with 11 service points and two aces. Saterfield handed out 20 assists and had six digs. Kiki Staton had two aces.
Valentine led the Tigers with 11 digs and Ashley Flowers added 10 digs.
Reach Carter at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048, or on Twitter @ACGalionSports.