Central junior libero Jessica Helms stepped out of the visiting locker room with tears fresh in her eyes. These weren’t tears of sorrow but rather tears of joy after Helms and the rest of the Bearcats pulled off an improbable comeback to beat Delta in a 2 hour, 10 minute volleyball marathon Tuesday night.
The Class 3A No. 7 Bearcats rallied from down 19-11 in the fourth set and fended off match point in the fifth for a 21-25, 26-24, 23-25, 25-22, 17-15 victory.
“That was just a lot,” Helms said in describing the match. “… It just overtook us all. We’re all just so close. We’re so much closer this year than we’ve ever been, and it was just like all of us, so it affected us all.”
The error-prone Bearcats fell behind 19-11 in the fourth after two consecutive hitting errors. Just a set earlier, Central practically served the third away with six of its 14 errors in that game alone.
With the match about to slip away, Central coach Wes Lyon called a timeout and afterward the Bearcats finally settled down and put the pressure back on Delta.
“He took that timeout at 19-11 and he was like, ‘OK guys. It’s do or die. It’s now or never. Either you’re going to do it now or you’re just going to lose and you better be a good sport when you lose,'” Helms said, “And we were like, ‘We’re not going to lose.'”
The Bearcats (9-5) rolled off five consecutive points, prompting Delta coach Heidi Zickgraf to call a timeout of her own. The two sides exchanged points before Central junior outside hitter Jaydn’ Pegues took over. Pegues terminated three balls in a six-point stretch and her third kill pulled the Bearcats even at 22-all.
The 3A No. 10 Eagles (13-8) then crumbled a bit under the pressure with two lifting violations as the Bearcats extended the match to a fifth set.
“I thought our team when it came down to crunch time, at the last possible second, we were good,” Lyon said. “I’m just really proud of them.”
Pegues put the Bearcats up 7-4 in the fifth by serving an ace on the heel of back-to-back kills. The Central senior recovered from a relatively slow start to finish with a match-high 37 kills.
“I had to hit high off hands, because I was not going to get blocked again and again and again,” Pegues said.
Scrappy Delta recovered by taking advantage of Central errors. The Eagles reeled off a 10-5 run, with seven of those points off Bearcat miscues, for a 14-12 lead.
Pegues halted the Delta celebration with a kill and then the Eagles committed a net violation to tie the score at 14-all. Central took the lead on a Teaghan Dishman passing error, withstood its 14th service error on the match, and put the Eagles away on a Pegues block and another Dishman passing error.
Zickgraf shed tears of her own afterward as she spoke to Dishman.
“She was upset, but that’s the same kid who had (30) digs,” Zickgraf said. “… I’m most disappointed at being up 19-11 to put them away, but some of that again is youth. I felt like once they started putting a little pressure on us in that game we lost it a little bit, but other than that I told them that this is probably the best match that everyone has played.”