Senior Alexa Baller digs for the Jets. (Photo by Deb Shannon)
BERNE— Thursday night's volleyball sectional at South Adams provided confirmation that at least one Adams county team would be in the sectional finals this year, but SA and AC will be playing each other on Saturday for that one spot as they both were victorious over their foes last night.
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In the Adams Central/Bluffton match, the Jets came out slow losing the first game, but came storming back to take the next three in an exciting contest with scores of 21-25, 25-16, 25-17, & 25-15 against the Lady Tigers.
"We had another slow start tonight, but once we got rid of the jitters and started to play volleyball we were just fine and we started to roll," Lady Jets coach Jeremi Schortgen commented after the game.
The Jets were down in the opening frame 11-18 at one point, then went on an 8-3 run to make it 21-23 when they finally found their stride, but Bluffton rallied off two straight points to end the comeback early. That would prove to be their last horrah.
The Jets came out tougher in the second game staying tight on the scoreboard until they broke the game open when they were up 14-10 on four straight points. After a 10-10 tie, the Lady Jets would rally to finish the game on a 15-6 run closing out the second frame.
It was in the third game that AC heavy hitters Chelsie Eads and Bess Fiechter really got hot for the Lady Jets. The senior and junior combined for 7 kills in the pivotal third game. The Lady Tigers had a 3-2 lead early but after two Fiechter kills, the Lady Jets never looked back. They stayed up by no less than four the rest of the game.
"We had some great leadership on the floor for us tonight, and the freshman are really coming along at a good time," coach Schortgen praised.
The fourth game for AC proved to be no different as the Bluffton Lady Tigers seemed to lose confidence and crumbled in the last stanza, 25-15 with the Lady Jets never trailing. The AC defense looked its sharpest in the final game.
Leading the Jets was senior setter Alyssa Keller with 36 assists, 13 digs, and five kills. Eads led in kills with 13 and also had a block and five digs. Fiechter had nine kills,, a block, three digs, and an ace. Sophomore libero Abby Snyder had 21 digs defensively for AC as well as an ace and two assists.
Other scores for the Lady Jets included the freshman duo of Haley Gross and Whittney Peterson with seven kills each, sophomore Abbey Lichtle with five kills, a block and 12 digs, sophomore Liz Luginbill with 13 digs, an ace, and two assists, and senior Alexa Baller with nine digs and an ace.
The South Adams contest versus the Lady Eagles of Churubusco proved to be worth the price of admission as the Lady Starfires won a classic in five games, 25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 25-21, 16-14.
With the Lady Stars down 14-9 in the last set, it seemed over for the Sectional hosts and fans were actually filing out. An unlikely hero arose for SA in the form of Lily Taing, the senior setter who quietly racks up assists for the Starfires during matches. Taing's role changed when starting outside hitter Hannah Mitchell left after the second game with what appeared to be a broken thumb.
South Adams took over after a Lady Eagles' serving miscue made the score 14-10. The next six points were as tense a moment for South Adams volleyball as had been seen in many years for the program. It seemed like the ball had eyes all of a sudden as senior captain Chelsea Bollenbacher received a few smashes that landed in off of a couple of Taing assists.
Taing joined in the kill spree with both of her match kills coming in the last four points of the contest when they were needed the most. It seemed as though the rally was destined to go South Adams way when they tied the score at 14-14 off of sophomore Alyssa Bluhm's service ace and crowd was electrified.
Bollenbacher finished off SA's seven-point rally with a kill to end the fifth and deciding game 16-14 in favor of the Lady Starfires.
"This is a huge hump for the South Adams' volleyball program to climb over," SA coach Ashley Buckingham tearfully stated after the contest. Buckingham had been on bed-rest for the past two weeks due to stress-related issues with a pregnancy. The coach, keeping her cool the entire match, could not have picked a more stressful game to come back and lead the Stars in.
South Adams wins its first sectional game in over a decade. The Stars have a 10-win season for the first time since the 90's.
The Stars won the first game despite blowing an 18-9 lead. The score was 24-23 in favor of the Stars before they finished with a Lady Eagles unforced error.
The turning point in the match came late in the second game, which was close the entire way through. SA's Mitchell came into the huddle of a timeout in tears from a ball that hit her thumb awkwardly. She was replaced in the lineup by junior Maizy Switzer who stepped up in her role, mostly defensively for the Stars.
Coach Buckingham tried to shift the Lady Stars around in different looks but could not seem to find a comfort zone as SA struggled mightily for offense in the third and fourth games.
The answer would come from the freshman Cady Farlow as she began hitting the ball with more force and finding her spots on the court when the Stars needed it most.
"Cady played beyond her years tonight. Our seniors stepped up when they had to and Lily Taing played huge for us. She was in a position she has not practiced all season," coach Buckingham praised.
Leading the way for the Starfires was Bollenbacher with 15 kills, two blocks, and two aces. Bluhm had eight kills, 17 assists, three aces, and 25 digs. Farlow had nine kills, two blocks, and 15 digs. Sophomore Mykala Coblentz and freshman Lauren Smith each had 13 digs for SA, while Taing had two kills, 18 assists, and six digs. Senior Ashlynn Jennings had five kills and five blocks, while junior Kara Delong had five kills.
Looking ahead, the Jets play the Starfires this Saturday in the semi-finals of sectional for the right to play in the championship against the winner of Bishop Luers/Eastside. The match will start at 11 a.m. with the championship game at 4 p.m.