Cardington had to endure five sets at home against Worthington Christian in Wednesday night’s Division III volleyball district semifinal contest, but were able to overcome that challenge and claim a 25-20, 25-27, 25-19, 19-25, 15-6 win.
“That was a gut check,” said head coach Ryan Treese. “That’s what we needed. If it was 3-0, I don’t know how we’d respond Saturday (against Johnstown Northridge). The fifth set was our best. We played clean and every point mattered.”
The Pirates had a chance to earn a 3-0 win, but the Warriors were able to thwart that with a furious second-set comeback. Cardington had gone up 1-0 in the match thanks to their own rally.
After falling into a 13-9 hole and only having one offensive point at that time, the team got a defensive point and five scoring serves in a row from Kyleigh Bonnette to surge in front.
Worthington Christian would regain the lead at 17-16 after two points from Tori Moore, but the Pirates finished the set strongly, getting one point from Jadine Mills and three from Liz Long to go in front 23-19. With the score 24-20, Izzy Wickline finished the set by scoring on her serve.
The second set also was back-and-forth. Five points by Bonnette gave the Pirates a 9-5 lead, but Worthington Christian rallied with two points from Grace Leneghan and three from Moore to go in front 12-10. Two points from Lexie Mellenger made it 13-12 in favor of Cardington and three from Long boosted that advantage to an 18-14 margin.
After three more from Bonnette made it a 23-16, it looked like the Pirates would go in front 2-0, but the team wouldn’t score on offense again. Two points by Leneghan brought the Warriors within a 23-19 score and four from Moore made it 24-24. With the score tied 25-25, WC got a pair of scores by Claire Dalton to knot the match at 1-1.
Things looked bad for Cardington early in the third set as five points by Liv Fenstermaker boosted the Warriors to an early 7-1 lead. However, the Pirates quickly got back into the match behind three points each from Wickline and Bonnette.
“I think tonight was the first night we let a team jump on us every set,” said Treese. “All the momentum was on their side and they started out up 7-1 and then it was 9-9 or 10-10.”
Cardington continued to score, getting two points each from Maggie Wade, Mellenger and Mills to move in front 18-14. They were able to maintain their advantage this time to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
However, they couldn’t take that momentum into the fourth set. Five points by Leneghan staked WC to an early 9-2 lead and they never looked back. While three points by Long got the Pirates within a 21-17 margin late in the set, the Warriors were able to hold on to their lead and send the match to a decisive fifth set.
Cardington was ready, though. Long opened the fifth with three straight points and with the score 4-2, the team got two from Cadie Long.
“I was honestly worried in the fourth that we’d waste too much energy when down 21-14,” said Treese. “But we came out 3-0 in the fifth, they called a time out and we kept going.”
The teams traded points until the score was 9-6. Cardington then got a defensive point, handed the ball to Mills and she served for five straight points to give her team a hard-fought win.
“I told them we got these shirts for a reason,” said Treese, pointing to t-shirts reading ‘Believe the Hype’. “Yes, Cardington volleyball hasn’t done this in recent history, but you have to believe you’re that good.”
The Pirates have now made their second straight district final and will be looking to break through into regionals against Northridge. Against WC, the team got 25 kills and 11 digs from Audrey Brininger, 15 kills and three aces from Wickline and 11 by Liz Long, who also had four aces and 20 digs. Bonnette had five aces and 55 assists, Ashlee Tharp added five blocks and Emalee Artz tallied three. Also, Cadie Long finished with 27 digs and Kayleigh Ufferman had 16.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS