WATSON – Central High rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win three straight wins and outlast Live Oak in five sets Thursday 18-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-22, and 15-12.
“It’s pretty huge,” Central coach Michele LeBouef said. “We have been fighting and struggling with consistency all season. It’s something we still don’t have down. Once we turn we switch on, we can get about eight or 10 points in a spurt and then it comes two or three points back and then we get another five or six. When we can find the consistently like we did in sets four and five, it’s much better on end. But until we can do that, we’re going to have long matches like we had tonight.”
Both teams took turns leading the decisive set Live Oak rallying from a 7-5 deficit to take a 10-7 lead.
The Lady Wildcats regained the upper hand at 12-10, holding on to win 15-12 and clinch the match.
Central took its third victory over Live Oak this season with the Wildcats sweeping the Lady Eagles in a best-of-three tournament format at Dutchtown and Woodlawn.
“The hardest thing to do any season in any sport is to beat a team multiple times,” LeBouef said. “We’ve seen them twice in tournaments and coming into a third match, there was a little bit of discomfort on our end because they’re hungry. They want to beat us. We were a little bit flat and they were fired up and ready for a win. That’s a bad combination.”
Going into the match Live Oak coach Chastity Sims challenged her team to scratch the previous two meeting from their minds.
“It’s a great game, but it hurts,” Sims said. “It’s a tough loss. It’s such a mental game, it’s not just a game of volleyball. It’s a mental game, too. We’ve been struggling with that and we’ve got to work through those things.
“You have to be resilient and you have to let go,” Sims said. “Don’t hang on to it, you can’t let this one match affect the rest of your games. We’ll see them again, it’s just a matter of a couple of weeks. Hopefully my girls will pull through and pull that resiliency out of them.”
The combination of Caroline Nunnery and Nia Kay, who was coming off an ankle injury, provided Central with the consistency they needed to complete the comeback, playing together in the lineup for the first time this season.
Nunnery led the charge with 13 kills, four blocks, an assist and a dig, while Kay recorded more blocks with six and four kills.
“Having those two next to each other for multiple rotations is really beneficial,” LeBouef said. “Nia is blocking everything and Caroline is hitting everything. Having those two next to each other really gives us a large presence at the net, which is exciting.”
“(Kay) and I are like two brick walls,” Nunnery said. “It’s great to have her back. I think we did well.”
The Fralicks – Mary and Abby - also had a stellar night for the Wildcats, with Mary recording eight kills, 18 assists, 14 digs, and three blocks while Abby had seven kills, an ace, and 12 digs.
Live Oak rode the early momentum of a 12-6 lead in the first set, opening an 18-6 lead before having to hold off a rally from Central.
Olivia Betz was the difference in the early going of the second set, recording four of her team-high 15 kills to push the Lady Eagles to a 13-9 advantage.
Central (12-12) eventually overcame the deficit and tied the set at 16-16 and then taking the lead on a Nia Kay kill and block.
Live Oak took advantage of Camryn Gerage’s dink kill followed by a pair of Central errors to build a 2-0 lead in the match.
“The first two sets we were ready to go,” said Betz, who added eight aces. “We were energetic. The next two we just got down on ourselves and the energy wasn’t as high.”
The combination of Betz and Sophia Foster were on fire for Live Oak in the first two sets, combining for 10 kills, an ace, a dig and two blocks.
Central didn’t show any affects of losing the first two sets, rolling to a 10-3 lead in set three and fended off one serious Live Oak charge.
The Wildcats maintained that momentum with a 9-1 lead in the fourth set when the Lady Eagles charged back to within 19-18 on Betz’s ace, but were unable to get any closer.
“Going down two sets makes you want it even more,” Nunnery said. “It makes you fight even harder. After we pulled it together, we knew that we were going to win the set, then we were going to win the match. Everything started to click and work out in our favor.”