EL DORADO — The Union Mine and Golden Sierra volleyball teams needed overtime to decide Thursday’s nonleague intra-county match — won by the host Diamondbacks 25-21, 25-17, 19-25, 22-25, 16-14.
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That it took overtime was a testament to the Grizzlies’ grit and determination to battle back from a 2-games-to-none deficit.
“I haven’t followed their season but I didn’t expect an easy match,” Union Mine coach Marti Howton said. “It was closer than anticipated. Our passing in the first two sets was really good but after that we let up.”
Wednesday’s meeting was the first between the programs since the D’backs swept in Garden Valley in the second round of last year’s section playoffs. After Union Mine took the first two games another sweep seemed possible.
“We played tight in the first two sets and it showed,” Golden Sierra coach Justin Cox. “I told the girls before the match this could be a potential playoff matchup. I thought we gave them a battle so I’m proud of the way my girls played.”
The fifth set went to the wire. The Grizzlies made up for an early 4-0 hole and after some early back-and-forth, had two costly net serves that prevented them from taking the lead. D’back Sarah Phillis’ stuff of Alexis Hall gave Union Mine a 13-12 lead but Hall had the hosts covering up in putting away Tiffany Grey’s set.
A Griz hit mis-fired to sit the hosts at match point but Golden Sierra iced Phillis with a timeout and she drilled a serve into the net. Tied at 14s, Kensie Clark’s diving save was wasted — Gabrielle Fredericks’ deposit put the D’backs up and with McKaela Vonasek on serve, Andrea Barnes kill on a set from Brooke Howton was deflected off the Grizzly front row to end it.
“We played really well in the first set and had good intensity but then we thought it’d be a cake-walk,” said Phillis who has perfected a tap she’s dubbed “the Swimmer.” “When we got serve in the fifth set I thought we had a really good chance.”
Behind Phillis and Jordan Buxton, Union Mine held off the visitors in the opening set despite some late hitting from Hall. Four Golden Sierra serves found the net — two late.
The D’backs took off late in the second set after Abigail Wever’s block of Phillis on a one-set. Vonasek’s kill switched the benches with Union Mine in control.
But here came the Grizzlies behind Grey’s leadership, the hitting of Hall, Jaime Hinton and Jordyn Condit, the defense of Paige Murchison and the net presence of Wever and Becca Brown. Key to the outcome was another Clark gem that led to Condit’s block. With Kaitlyn Console and Howton on serve, Golden Sierra stumbled late but held on.
The Griz broke an early 5-5 tie in the fourth set and though it tightened never lost the upper hand. Up 20-19, Hall and Condit both connected for kills and Grey set up Wever before Vonasek answered. Phillis’ block forced a Grizzly lift and then a misfire.
Back-to-back serves did Union Mine in — the first its own that hit the net and the next by Clark that the D’backs decided to play at the last second — leading to the fifth and deciding game.
“That was so close. That was a good comeback especially after last year’s playoffs,” Wever said. “Though we lost this was like taking it back.”