Assumption High School’s comeback kids did it again.
The Rockets overcame big deficits in the second and third games to post a 25-16, 26-24, 25-23 victory over rival Sacred Heart in Thursday’s championship match of the Seventh Region volleyball tournament at Valley.
Ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 3 in the nation, Assumption is 37-2 and a heavy favorite to win its third straight state tournament next week.
But coach Ron Kordes said things haven’t come easy for a team that tends to play its best only when it falls behind.
“We’ve been in some tight spots, and somehow they find a way to get out of it for the most part,” Kordes said. “But it gets dangerous, and it works me too much.”
Alyssa Cavanaugh had 10 kills to lead the Rockets, and Taylor Paulson and Miranda Elpers both added eight. Assumption will face the Second Region champion at 11:30 a.m. next Friday in the state tournament opener at Valley.
Ashley Askin had 16 kills and Madison Wessling added 12 for the No. 3 Valkyries (27-13), who fell to Assumption in the regional final for the third straight year.
Coach Eric Garvey said his team struggled to handle Assumption’s service game.
“We just didn’t control the ball real well on that first touch,” he said. “Once the ball got in play, we did some good things.”
The Rockets never trailed in the first game and led 7-1 and 13-8 in the second before Sacred Heart found its rhythm. Wessling had two kills during a 7-1 run that gave the Valkyries a 15-14 lead and forced an Assumption timeout.
Sacred Heart led 18-15 and had a set point at 24-23, but Elpers’ kill tied it at 24. After a Valkyries error, Elpers closed the game with an ace.
Paulson said the Rockets have practice drills that focus on rallying from deficits.
“It’s mental,” she said. “We have the mental stability to say, ‘Yes, we’re down, but we have the power to come back and do this.’ “
Sacred Heart built a 19-15 lead in the third game, but the Rockets scored eight straight points for a 23-19 lead. The Valkyries pulled within 24-23, but a service error ended the match.
When it was over, Kordes said his team was lucky to escape with a victory.
“I don’t think we played our best ball tonight, so hopefully we have something for next week,” he said. “I’ve said all year long that we have two different teams out here. … Fortunately, this year the best team shows up at the right time.”
* All-tournament team: London Ackermann, Alyssa Cavanaugh, Alexa Filley, Hannah Moore (Assumption); Amy Evans, Madison Wessling, Annie Adams (Sacred Heart); Maya McClendon, Gabbi Greenwald (Manual); Georgia O’Connell, Kacy Clinkenbeard (Male); Mary Oetken (Atherton); Caroline Rassenfoss (Christian Academy); Amanda Frank (Eastern); Emma Asher (Presentation).