Four close sets, one Lady Elker victory.
Ridgway volleyball rebounded after a first-set loss for a hard-fought 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-23, 28-26) victory over Punxsutawney Tuesday night at Ridgway Area High School in the Lady Elkers’ season opener.
“It was a rough start,” Ridgway coach Janet Redmond said. “The girls were having trouble with the lineup. It’s just butterflies, a lot of girls this is their first time playing varsity. Hopefully, they get the bugs worked out after this game. Punxsy is an excellent, excellent team. That’s a feather in our hat right there to beat that team and come back to do it.”
Ridgway had the advantage going into the fourth set, leading in the match 2-1. Punxsutawney was the team to get off to a strong start, needing a win in the fourth to force a deciding fifth set. The Lady Chucks would score the first four points and seven of the first 10 to build a 7-3 cushion. Ridgway would go on a 5-1 spurt highlighted by a Mandie Leithner kill which was followed by a Leithner block to tie the set at 8-all. The team would exchange ties at 9-all, 11-all and 14-all before the Lady Chucks would score three points in a row for a 17-14 lead. Ridgway would take advantage of Punxsutawney errors throughout the set and did so in a 5-1 spurt as Ridgway led 19-18.
The Lady Chucks roared back with four points in a row to get a 22-19 lead and force a Ridgway timeout. The Lady Elkers added a pair of points before each team had a service error which had the margin at 23-22 in favor of the Lady Chucks. After a Punxsutawney kill, Leithner and Sarah McClain had back-to-back kills to tie the set at 24-all and stave off two Lady Chuck set points.
The Lady Chucks added another kill to set up another set point but Ridgway would fight that one off to tie the set at 25. A hitting error gave Ridgway a set point but the Lady Chucks would get the next one down in play to tie the set at 26. Two straight hitting errors by Punxsutawney would put an end to the long set and push Ridgway to the victory.
The match opened with the Lady Elkers garnering an 8-point lead. At 6-all, Ridgway scored nine of the next 10 points to take a 15-7 lead. Maria Buhler had two aces during this run as did Leithner. Punxsutawney would take the next three and slowly crept back into the set. At 22-19, the Lady Chucks would surge ahead by scoring the last six points to take the opening set 25-22 and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
“The first game was bad,” Redmond said. “Our passing wasn’t getting it there to the hitters. We don’t have a strong offense yet but we’ll work on that.”
Punxsutawney continued its strong play in the second set by scoring the first four points before Ridgway called a timeout. Ridgway cut the lead to 5-4, aided by a McClain kill and strong serving from Ellie Woodford. Punxsutawney would nudge the lead back to 9-6 before Buhler added a kill to punctuate a third straight Ridgway point.
Punxsutawney swung the pendulum of momentum back its way by scoring seven of the next eight points for a 16-10 lead. Ridgway would then score five of the next six points as the Lady Chucks had some hitting errors. Kiki Woodford had strong serving with five service points during this stretch. At 20-16, a Katie Oknefski kill was followed by two Leithner kills and a Leithner block to tie the set at 20-all. At 21-all, the Lady Chucks had a pair of hitting errors before getting those points back to leave the set tied at 23-all. A Ridgway ace culminated the set as Ridgway tied the match at one set apiece.
After Ridgway held a 10-5 lead in the third set, the Lady Chucks would eventually tie the set with four straight points after a 12-8 Ridgway lead. The teams would alternate points before the Lady Chucks would add two straight. Ridgway would do the same to tie it at 15-all. The set would have tied at 16-all, 19-all and 20-all. Ridgway took a 21-20 lead on a net violation before giving the point back on a service error. A Leithner kill put Ridgway ahead 22-21. Back-to-back lane violations had Ridgway ahead 23-22. A Ridgway block went out of bounds to tie the set at 23. McClain added a kill and Jenna Hoffman put down an ace to finish the set and push the Lady Elkers to a second straight 25-23 set victory.
“Sarah McClain did a great job on outside and weak and Katie Oknefski,” Redmond said. “Ellie Woodford’s our setter, she did a pretty good job. It makes her life easier when the passing is there.”
In addition to passing, Redmond wants the Lady Elkers to be more consistent on serving.
“We need to work on serves, that’s always been our downfall too,” Redmond said. “A win’s a win and I’ll take it. Hopefully they get the butterflies out of them. That was an excellent team, Punxsy. We can beat teams like that, we’ll be OK.”
Ridgway (1-0) is set to play at Johnsonburg Thursday night. Junior varsity action is set for 6 p.m. with the varsity match to follow.
“We’ll have to work through a couple things in practice to be ready for Thursday night,” Redmond said.