“I love sports,” a fan sitting in the Meadville student section proudly proclaimed during the fourth set of Monday night’s volleyball match between Meadville and McDowell.
The non-region matchup at the House of Thrills left little reason to feel otherwise. There were long rallies, big comebacks, ridiculous defensive saves. And for Meadville fans, it looked as though the Lady Bulldogs might pull off one of its biggest wins of the season.
But that on-the-edge-of-your-seat-battle ended with the Trojans a 19-25, 27-25, 25-27, 25-21, 15-13 victor and the Lady Bulldogs in tears.
“It’s hard to beat good teams,” Meadville coach Tim Schleicher said. “And we gave ourselves every chance to win that one. We had a lot of opportunities. If we want a different result, we have to execute on a handful more of those opportunities. … We just have to win one of these here. After a while it starts to wear on you.”
The Bulldogs entered last night’s match following a outstanding effort — which Schleicher described as his team’s best — in a loss to Hickory on Thursday and a first-place finish at the Meadville Invitational, and jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead against the Trojans.
The Bulldogs never trailed in the set. Kasey Smith had four kills in the game, while Mia Soerensen and Lucy Smith had three kills each. Soerensen also had three service aces. Meadville 12 kills total from five players and just four hitting errors in the game.
That effectiveness continued in the second. But midway through, the Trojans put together a run with the help of a service error, a hitting error and a ball-handling miscue to go up 16-11. Meadville did muster up a big comeback. Soerensen served up two more aces to go with back-to-back kills by Lucy Smith and a kill off a quick set by Kasey Smith to take an 18-17 lead.
Meadville eventually extended that lead to three (23-20). The Trojans answered with a 4-0 run, however, to reach game point, up 24-23. McDowell had game point two more times, finally burying it home on a kill error by the Bulldogs for a 27-25 win.
It took another big rally to put the Bulldogs in contention in Game 3. This time Meadville capitalized.
The ’Dogs trailed by as many as six (17-11) in the set. Madelyn Hilson was subbed into the lineup to serve with the Trojans up 18-14. She served up three straight aces to pull Meadville to within one (18-17). A pair of kills by Abigale Soboleski put McDowell back up by three (20-17). But the Bulldogs didn’t waver, quickly putting the ball back into their hands on a kill by Lucy Smith. Meadville strung off four straight points to take a 21-20 advantage.
McDowell did battle back, much like Meadville did in the third set, even taking 25-24 lead. A kill by Lucy Smith followed by back-to-back errors by the Trojans ended it with Meadville winning 27-25 to take a 2-1 advantage.
McDowell fed off that momentum and took a 6-2 lead in the fourth set. Again, Meadville refused to go away and eventually took a 16-13 lead. Meadville couldn’t sustain the lead this time, however, and the match was even at 2-2 after the Trojans’ 25-21 win.
Meadville had some more fight left in it, down 10-7 in the fifth set. An ace by Lucy Smith pulled Meadville to within one and it tied it at 10-10 on an attack error by the Trojans. That is as close as the Bulldogs would get, though.
“You get more of this than you do the giant celebrations,” Schleicher said. “These happen more often than not. You get in there at the beginning of the season and understand this is going to happen sometimes. You go home and look in the mirror and say, ‘I did everything I possibly could tonight and worked my hardest and bounced back after errors,’ you’re doing everything
The win was a big one for the Trojans (9-1), who were coming off a four-set loss to General McLane — McDowell’s first loss of the year.
“We were kind of down in the dumps because we lost on Thursday,” McDowell coach Jamie Soboleski said. “We really improved on our defense and reading hitters and playing together as a team. Our serve receive struggled last week and so we really worked on picking that up to.
The good thing was there were times we were getting down and we didn’t completely go down, which is what did Thursday. We kept fighting and that’s what you like to see.”
Statistically for the Bulldogs (4-6), Lucy Smith led the way with 17 kills and 28 digs. Soerensen added nine kills, five blocks, seven digs and seven aces. Alexis Holt had 25 digs. Jillian Decker had 42 assist and 12 digs.