BUCYRUS — After the Wynford volleyball team swept Riverdale just over two weeks ago, coach Tim Baumberger elevated the significance of the Royals’ first match with Upper Sandusky, dubbing the Rams a team that concerned him. After hosting the Rams Thursday night, the rematch in October now is doubly appealing.
The Royals needed every one of outside-hitting phenom Paige Brady’s 35 kills to oust the Rams, 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 23-25, 19-17, in a divisional Northern Central Conference match that had a tournament-like ambiance.
The Rams (5-3, 4-2 NCC) turned the momentum of a fourth-set win into a 7-3 lead early in the fifth set, but committed three errors while the Royals (7-1, 6-0 NCC) came back and knotted it at 11. Five lead changes later, Rams setter Allison Snyder was whistled for an illegal block from the back row.
The Royals were elated and the Rams stood briefly in disbelief.
“I thought the call was legitimate, but obviously that’s a lousy way to end that match,” Upper Sandusky coach Matthew McConnaughey said. “My girls are young and we had many chances to close the match out and just didn’t do it.”
With 2011 All-Ohioan Taylor Graboski and All-Ohioan honorable mention Brady slated to be in the same gymnasium, the contest had slugfest written all over it. The two did not disappoint, as Brady’s 35 kills just edged an equally-gasping 30 from Graboski.
Both stepped up in big moments and carried their teams for stretches, but Brady was a little better in this one.
“I turned around to my coaching staff on the bench (at one point) and said, ‘God, is she talented,” Baumberger said.
Brady also led the Royals with seven aces and had 23 digs and Brenna Quinn had 15 kills for the Royals. Libero Amanda Lilly had a match-high 26 digs and setter Shannon Miller a match-high 63 assists.
Rams’ setter Allison Snyder broke Upepr Sandusky’s single-match assists record for the second time this season and was right behind Miller with 59, spreading the ball among her three 6-foot, 2-inch hitters — Graboski, Jessi Holly and Molly Owens. Jessi Holly had 14 kills and Owens had 10.
But Baumberger said afterward he was most surprised by the Rams’ defense.
Led by Graboski and libero Jenna Holly, the Rams tamed Brady at times. Graboski either tipped or blocked several of Brady’s attacks at the net while Holly had 16 digs, lunging and diving on the floor countless times to keep the rally alive. Allison Snyder also had 16 digs, Graboski had 15 and Jessi Holly tallied 12 for Upper Sandusky.
The Rams’ blocking and hitting suffered slightly on occasions when Graboski rotated to the back row. Upper Sandusky was edged 24-19 during Graboski’s back-row rotations in the final two sets, and held a 23-18 advantage during the same stretch when the junior was up front.
“She’s a national MVP at the club level so we like having her in the front row,” McConnaughey said.
Brady was slow out of the blocks and recorded just three kills in the first set. After recklessly swinging right at the tallest front line the undersized outside hitter has seen all season, the senior regained her bearings and channeled a cerebral approach with which she typically plays, and the kills stacked sky-high.
“She takes a ball that’s gone all the way outside the antenna, clear over to her left side, and she goes up and pulls it back with her left hand and scores with it, or she keeps it in play,” Baumberger said. “She can do so much with the ball and she’s such a smart player that it’s just fun to watch her play.”
The fourth set was neck-and-neck down to the deciding play. At 24-23, the referees awarded a block to Graboski after an attacking attempt from Brady ricocheted off of her hands and over to the Royals’ side, landing right around the left line.
Baumberger was infuriated when it happened, but it turned out to be a moot point in the end.
“I didn’t agree with the call, but it’s not my call; it’s theirs,” he said. “It’s a tight call on the line. They though tit was in, I thought it was out.
More controversy arose in the deciding set. Brady hit a ball wide to the left outside the confines that would have given the Rams an 8-3 lead, but the referees said Rams’ Kalene Johnson, who dove to hit the ball but tried to relent at the last second, touched it.
After the Royals tied the match at 11, the two teams went swing for swing down to the deciding point. Graboski had three kills and Jessi Holly and Brady tallied two as the two teams combined to post 12 kills in the final 14 points of the match.
The Rams and the Royals will face off in Upper Sandusky Oct. 7 for the rematch.
“Hopefully by then we will have grown,” McConnaughey said. “We have had a lot of young moments and I knew we would have them. We have some matches in between there that will help get us ready for them, but we are glad to have a rematch.”
Both teams are back in action Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Wynford will host Crestline and Upper Sandusky hosts Bucyrus.
Wynford 3, Upper Sandusky 2
Wynford (7-1, 5-1 NCC): Ehresman, 18-22 receiving, 6 digs; Brady, 22-24 serving, 7 aces, 67-70 attacking, 35 kills, 18-22 receiving, 23 digs; S. Miller, 17-17 serving, 3 aces, 10-10 hitting, 5 kills, 133-135 setting, 63 assists, 22-25 receiving, 2 blocks, 10 digs; Lilly, 19-20 serving, 1 ace, 2-2 hitting, 1 kill, 22-25 receiving, 26 digs; Krebs, 20-23 serving, 2 aces, 22-25 attacking, 3 kills, 7 digs, 3 blocks; A. Harrer, 13-16 serving, 1 ace, 14-18 attacking, 3 kills, 3 blocks, 7 digs; M. Harrer, 14-15 serving, 25-27 hitting, 8 kills, 21-24 receiving, 3 blocks 10 digs; Quinn, 25-26 hitting, 15 kills, 3 blocks, 3 digs.
Upper Sandusky (5-3, 4-2 NCC): Bianchi, 4-4 serving, 10-12 receiving, 4 digs; Niederkohr, 7-8 serving, 9-12 receiving, 3 digs; Jenna Holly, 24-24 serving, 4 aces, 36-38 receiving, 16 digs; Grabowski, 2-21 serving, 5 aces, 54-58 attacking, 31-34 receiving, 3 blocks, 15 digs; Jessi Holly, 17-17 serving, 4 aces, 32-26 attacking, 14 kills, 9-9 receiving, 1 block, 12 digs, Snyder, 13-13 serving, 1 ace, 4-5 attacking, 1 ace, 138-144 setting, 59 assists, 16 digs; Johnson, 19-20 serving, 1 ace, 21-25 attacking, 7 kills, 3 blocks, 3 digs; Cameron, 8-11 attacking, 3 kills, 2 blocks, 3 digs; Owens, 22-29 attacking 0 kills, 2 digs.
By NICK MARLOW