SHINGLE SPRINGS — Behind a boost of senior play from Maddie DeGeorge, Hayley Corell, Moira McVicar and Delaney Chaplin, fifth-ranked Oak Ridge held off upset-minded Ponderosa in four sets Monday to close out the regular season home schedule.
The four contributed mightily to the Trojans’ 23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-21 Senior Night win — doing so despite their life — in photo collages — staring at them from one side of the gymnasium wall.
“The seniors did really well and that’s what we wanted to see in their last home game,” Oak Ridge coach Bre Horton said. “We weren’t necessarily surprised Ponderosa took the first set — it’s always a good match between us. They played great defense but once we figured out our hitting and passing we were able to play our game.”
Monday’s battle lay in the first two sets: the Bruins grabbed the first one while Oak Ridge, after a pivotal line call, won the second. Troy swept the season series from Ponderosa in their last match as Delta River League rivals.
Elizabeth Cameron’s one-set for Marissa Quilici broke an early tie and the Trojans were on their way until shaky play stopped their flow as Ponderosa leaped back into the picture. It was still Oak Ridge’s set with its 21-18 advantage but the Bruins, led by Sarah Walker, rallied to go up 22-21.
A frantic Ponderosa save led to Nicole Banke’s feed to Walker and Banke’s ace sat the Bruins at match point. The score tightened to a point before Banke set Morgan Jones for the win.
“We were excited to get the first set because we haven’t beaten them in awhile,” Walker said. “Our play was broken at times but overall we played well together.”
The second set was competitive, exciting and back-and-forth with no definitive front-runner. As Ponderosa’s Kendra Davidson, Jones, Kassie McGill and Paris Backston dug in defensively, the Bruins hung with Oak Ridge behind the net play of varsity newcomer Alex Boyle, in for Lauren Williams.
Oak Ridge managed to tie on Corell’s kill, a Marissa Eaves block and an Eaves’ smash to the middle and started pulling away on Olivia Reid’s tip over the block and Quilici’s tap.
Troy led 23-19 after Reid’s kill and were within a point after Quilici’s kill but Jones scored on three straight swings — one on Christine McDavid’s pass — as Oak Ridge began to slip. Ponderosa trailed 24-23 after Banke landed an ace.
When play resumed following a Trojan request for time, the Bruins’ momentum and set abruptly ended when Reid hammered a kill toward the back line that appeared to carry out but ruled in to the utter disbelief of Ponderosa and its fans.
“You could see that deflated us and our whole energy went down after that,” Bruin coach Sheri Millhollin said. “We always tell the girls it (volleyball) doesn’t come down to a single point but then it does and effected the whole game.
“The girls really wanted this game and I’m disappointed for them. We had so much fight and the girls were playing out of their minds,” Millhollin added.
Clearly, Ponderosa never recaptured its inspired play from the first two sets. DeGeorge atoned for an error on one play with a midrow smash on the next and points from Cameron, Eaves, Reid and Corell carried Oak Ridge to the finish line and the 2-to-1 game advantage.
McGill’s ace had the Bruins up 6-4 early in the fourth set and Ponderosa held its last lead after Chaplin’s misfire. Though Boyle blocked Eaves’ quick set, the Bruins couldn’t dig the ball out of the net as the teams headed down the final stretch even at 16s.
Troy pushed ahead as Cameron set up McVicar and Cameron’s save found the middle of the Ponderosa defense. Jones’ back-to-the-play overhead return momentarily halted Oak Ridge but the Bruins last-ditch effort of Walker’s kill and Banke’s ace wasn’t enough as Moira’s tip over the block gave the Trojan seniors the win.
“This wasn’t our best match and we played as if we were waiting for them to lose — not going after the win,” the seniors said collectively. “It’s been a fun yet bittersweet season. Playing for Oak Ridge is a lot of committment but very rewarding. We’re excited for the playoffs and think we can go far.”
Notes: Former Trojan coach Becky Potter, who coached the Oak Ridge seniors, handled the Senior Night festivities Monday evening. Junior Kimmy Tuttle sported a pink cast after fracturing her hand and was unavailable to play.