JOHNSONBURG – Ridgway volleyball was pushed to the brink by Johnsonburg but pushed through for a 3-2 (25-12, 25-23, 18-25, 13-25, 15-9) victory over the Ramettes Tuesday night at Johnsonburg Area High School.
After winning the first two sets, Johnsonburg rallied to win the next two and force the fifth set. At 2-2, Ridgway junior Katie Oknefski scored three straight aces. Senior Nicole Breier had a kill and Oknefski added another ace to put the Lady Elkers up 7-2. That 5-point stretch turned out to be a huge difference as the Ramette could only get within three at 7-4 and no closer as Ridgway won the deciding set, 15-9.
“If you get down on yourself, you can’t focus on that ball,” Ridgway coach Janet Redmond said. “You’re afraid to hit it, you’re afraid to make a mistake. The fifth game came around and we cheered up the girls because I know they have it. Johnsonburg really has some strong hitters and they don’t miss a bump, they get them right to their setters. Their passing was excellent. It’s another good win for us.”
Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey said the Ramettes had chances late in the match.
“Even in the fifth game, we made some errors that we hadn’t made in the third and the fourth games,” Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey said. “When the game’s on the line, it’s a fickle game, the momentum changes. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
It was an even start to the match as the first set was tied at 2-all, 4-all, 5-all, 6-all and 7-all. The Lady Elkers led 11-10 but five straight points opened up the lead as Ridgway went on a 14-2 run to close out the opening set with a 25-12 win.
Both teams alternated points as the second set got under way. At 5-all, Johnsonburg senior Sarah Bevacqua had two straight aces. Johnsonburg couldn’t get a return from Ridgway over the net and then Breier slammed down a kill to make the score 7-all. At 11-all, Chelsea Benson scored on a block then went back beyond the service line and hit an ace to make the lead 13-11. Ridgway would come back to tie the second set at 15 on an ace from Maria Buhler.
The teams continued to alternate points until the set was tied at 18, then Oknefski and Sarah McClain contributed consecutive kills for the Lady Elkers to make the lead 20-18 and force a Johnsonburg timeout. The timeout gave the Ramettes some momentum as Brianna Fabris was able to serve five straight points and put Johnsonburg two points from evening the matchup.
A McClain kill gave Ridgway the serve back and Ellie Woodford would go on to serve for the final four service points and give the Lady Elkers a 25-23 win and a 2-0 lead. During the 5-0 run to close the second set, Oknefski had three straight kills.
“I thought the second game we should have won,” Shuey said. “It’s something that is about experience, about being in that situation. The first game, they pretty much handed it to us. We made errors and gave that second game away. It’s about playing experience. We’ll get there. I think this was a good learning experience for the team.”
Redmond said McClain provided a strong presence with her kills at the net.
“Sarah McClain did a great job, she had nine kills,” Redmond said. “I think that's the most she’s had all year, she was a contributor in us winning those first two games. Katie had 15 kills and Nicole had 11. It was all about who was going to make the least amount of errors.”
Redmond said Oknefski was a big part in the Lady Elkers winning.
“Katie’s an excellent player,” Redmond said. “I really rely on her a lot. Katie Oknefski is awesome. I’m so glad she’s only a junior.”
An Oknefski kill in the third set helped to put Ridgway up 8-4 as the Lady Elkers were looking to finish the match. Johnsonburg would score six of the next seven points, including three off the serve of Bevacqua, to put the Ramettes up 10-9. Johnsonburg would gradually begin to take control of the set as Ridgway would call a timeout at 15-12. The Lady Elkers had a brief switch in the momentum as Oknefski earned a kill to make the lead 15-14. Johnsonburg would then score five of the next six to take a 20-15 lead en route to a 25-18 third set victory.
“The momentum changed after the second game,” Redmond said. “Johnsonburg had some good servers and we weren’t able to pass off the serve. We made too many errors in the third and fourth games.”
At 4-all in the fourth set, Johnsonburg took the momentum and made quick work of the set, scoring six straight off the serve of Fabris. After a service error, Breier slammed a kill and added a block as Ridgway scored four straight to cut the margin to two.
Johnsonburg would answer with four straight as part of an 8-1 run which put the Ramettes up 18-9. The Ramettes went on to take the fourth set 25-13.
“Our passing came back,” Shuey said. “Up until that time, Sarah (Bevacqua) was running all over the place. We could then get a middle attack. Up until that point, we couldn’t because our passes were way off the net.”
There was plenty of pink all around the gym Tuesday night as it was the 2nd Annual Dig for Pink event for Johnsonburg Volleyball. Both teams wore pink warmup jerseys and a pink volleyball was used for the match.
“I do want to congratulate the team, they put this together,” Shuey said. “Us coaches had nothing to do with it. I’m proud of the fact that they have taken this mission on and they did a really nice job.”
Ridgway is scheduled to host Bradford on Thursday with junior varsity action to start at 6 p.m. Johnsonburg volleyball travels to play Bradford next Tuedsay with junior varsity action to start at 6 p.m.