SPRINGFIELD – If you’re looking for a gauge of just how competitive Thursday’s volleyball contest between Springfield and Live Oak was, maybe the Eagles’ Jamie Elenbaas summed it up best.
Live Oak was in position to win the match twice in the fifth and deciding set, but Springfield closed on a 4-1 run, wrapping up a 3-2 victory (25-17, 13-25, 25-19, 21-25, 17-15) in an intra-parish matchup at the Springfield gym.
“It was definitely a good game,” Elenbaas said. “I’m proud of all of us. I’m proud of Springfield because they wanted it too, and it was really just survival of the fittest I guess, and it was a really fun game to play at the end of the night. I’m exhausted.”
The contest was another step in the learning process for Springfield under first-year coach Larry Smoot.
“I thought they played hard,” Smoot said while noting the Lady Bulldogs still have to work on consistency, technique and positioning. “That’s the main thing. You can’t be perfect yet. You can only get better, but as long as you’re playing hard, you’re going to do good things.”
For Live Oak coach Chastity Sims, the loss was the continuation of a not-so-good trend when it comes to five-set matches.
“We do this every game,” Sims said while pointing out her team lost five-set matches to Brusly to open the season and Zachary on Tuesday. “It takes a lot out of you. I can’t be mad at how they played. I’m not upset with how they played. They fought hard, but it’s just like we’re so close every time. It’s just a matter of getting over that hump to getting the win.”
With the match tied at two sets each, Live Oak (3-6) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the final set before Springfield took advantage of Eagle errors to spark a 7-2 run, which gave the Lady Bulldogs a 7-5 lead on Tabby Lobell’s ace. Lobell filled in as the team’s primary setter after the Lady Bulldogs played without Olivia Davis.
“I know she’s set for this program before,” Smoot said of Lobell, who had 13 blocks and three digs. “She’s probably played every position for this program over the years, but she steadied us out and kind of took us over the hump.”
There were four ties in the early stages of the final set, the last of which came on Lara Cartwright’s ace, making the score 7-7. Mackenzie Covington’s kill put Live Oak ahead 9-7, but the teams went back-and-forth from there.
Springfield led by a point five times, and the score was tied five times before Rylee Parnell’s ace gave Live Oak a 14-13 lead.
“It so hard to come back, even just two or three points,” Sims said. “It’s such a huge momentum shift, and to get that momentum back, it takes a lot. We’ve just got to get to where we’re keeping the momentum. We’re not giving it up.”
Elenbaas’ kill was ruled out of bounds, knotting the score at 14, and Live Oak picked up another point to go ahead 15-14.
“We connect better in intense games like this,” Elenbaas said after finishing with eight aces and 12 digs. “(Against) Zachary Tuesday, we went to five sets as well, and it’s always the last set that always gets us. I think if we can push just a little bit more and then critique ourselves in the first matches, then it won’t have to be this bad and then we have to accept the loss after wanting it so bad.”
“The last set was definitely our most intense one, and it was the most fun I had because we were all helping each other,” Elenbaas continued. “We wanted it the most. All of us wanted the same amount. I didn’t feel like all the pressure was on just one person. It was the team.”
An error tied the score at 15, setting Lobell up to serve. Her kill gave the Lady Bulldogs the lead, and an error at the net gave Springfield the match-winning point.
The final three sets were in contrast to the first after Springfield snapped a 5-5 tie as Lobell had a pair of aces and Jension Riley added another, helping Springfield to a 15-6 lead.
Springfield extended the lead to 20-11 before Live Oak got a close as 24-17 on Covington’s ace, but Riley’s kill gave Springfield a 25-17 win in the first set.
“Volleyball is a momentum swing after momentum swing, and if you go into a match thinking, ‘I’ve got this,’ you’ve probably put yourself two steps into the grave. You’re done, and I think that’s what happened that game. We started fighting back, but then we so far down, you get to a certain point … It’s possible to come back, we made it really hard on ourselves.”
Live Oak took control early in the second set with Elenbaas hitting four straight aces during a 6-0 run to get started. Live Oak stretched the lead to 15-4 on Grace Warciski’s aces.
Springfield got as close as seven twice, the last time on Dali Hughes’ kill, making the score 19-12.
Live Oak closed on a 6-1 run to win the set 25-13. Hughes had nine digs in the match.
“We’ve got to get on top, and we’ve got to stay on them,” Sims said. “I tell them you’ve got to keep your foot on them. Don’t let up. We’re normally successful when we do come out on top (in a set).”
Springfield jumped out to a 14-6 lead in the third set before Live Oak chipped the advantage to 18-13 on Kate Campbell’s ace.
Live Oak got within 23-19 before Springfield scored the final two points of the set, closing it out on Hughes’ kill for a 25-19 win.
Live Oak jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set and maintained the lead until Springfield tied it at 15-15. From there, there were six ties and six lead changes, with the last tie coming at 21-21 on Riley’s kill.
“We’ve got to get rid of the lulls more,” Smoot said. “There’s times where we just like, ‘OK, I’m going to cruise a little bit.’ We’ve got to identify that and change that, and that will really help this team.”
Live Oak, however, closed on a 4-0 run, winning the set 25-21 and setting up the thrilling finish.
“We’re so close,” Sims said. “It’s just next time, I guess. It’s exhausting.
“There’s no excuse for it. We’ve just got to keep fighting.”