STUARTS DRAFT — Momentum was the name of the game in Stuarts Draft on Tuesday night as Buffalo Gap defeated the Cougars in four sets 25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17.
At first the energy and the game were even at four apiece. Then an ace by Katie Foster sent the Bison on a ten point stampede, securing a 25-15 first set victory.
“When we were on we played really well and other times we didn’t do so hot,” said Stuarts Draft head coach Michelle Kirby. “So it’s just trying to get the momentum in our favor, play like we can, and get it together as a team.”
Stuarts Draft seemed to be doing better in the second set, building up to a 23-17 lead. The Cougars couldn’t capitalize on their biggest lead of the night and lost some vital momentum. That opened the door for a series of bizarre plays that either team could call, for better or for worse, luck. A fault that seemed to take the teams by surprise, a deflection off a low-hanging speaker on the ceiling, and a shot that at least half the gym swore was over the line all led Gap to set point. From there, Hanger did the rest, and Gap took the second set home 25-23.
With the third set do-or-die for Draft, Kirby’s team regrouped and shook off the previous losses.
“We’re pretty good as far as if we make a mistake and they capitalize on it we don’t let it drag us down,” Kirby said.
Draft were finally able to make the comeback stick in the third set. With both teams deadlocked at 20, they traded advantage back and forth three times, with sophomore Makaila Napier’s kill sending the match to set point, and the Cougars to a 25-23 victory.
When talking about her team’s third set, this time it was Bison head coach Elizabeth Ashby’s turn to use ‘the m-word’.
“What we need to work on is obviously ‘be ready and don’t get back on our heels, be ready for the attack at the net,’” Ashby said. “During the set it was like we relaxed and went back on our heels and we just need to stay up the whole time. It’s a momentum thing, whoever has the momentum.”
Buffalo Gap reclaimed that momentum for good in the final set. Before then, each set had wound its way to a three-all deadlock. Not in the fourth set. Kaylee Mills scored to give Gap a 4-2 advantage, and the Bison never looked back. Abby Flint got an insurance point to kill off any incipient Cougar comeback, and Gap finished off the contest 25-17.
Ashby singled out the senior, who racked up 13 service points, 25 kills, 6 aces and 6 blocks, for her role in pulling the game together for her team.
“Abby Flint has done an amazing job in the middle,” Ashby said. “She’s a team captain and she’s being a leader on the floor this year. She sees the floor very well. Emily Hanger, same thing. Our middles are our key right now, but then I also have some excellent play on the back line.”
Stuarts Draft was led by Daneille Brenneman’s 19 kills and three aces. Deborah Black had eight kills, and Makaila Napier and Rendy Dressler had seven kills each.
For Buffalo Gap, Foster had 25 service points and four aces. Emily Hanger contributed 18 kills and four blocks, and Kaylee Mills had six kills and 18 digs.