GNADENHUTTEN – Nobody knows what this time of the year means more than the Ridgewood volleyball team.
It’s win or go home, bringing added pressure for a team that has its eyes set on a second state final four appearance in three years.
The players are embracing that pressure, so much so that head coach Brenda McCoy had to kick them out of practice Wednesday evening. That wasn’t because because they were goofing off, but because they didn’t want to stop. They want to be the best.
“We just wanted to practice more so we could play better,” said senior Allie Dobson, who finished with six blocks.
“Honestly, we told them we needed to keep their legs fresh for tonight, but they wanted to keep working,” McCoy said. “Coach Smith and myself had to start taking down the net with them still on the court.”
The Generals beat one seed Buckeye Trail 13-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-15 Wednesday, but early on it looked as if Ridgewood would have rather the Indian Valley staff taken the nets down also. The Generals led Buckeye Trail 13-11 early after an Eliza Haynes kill. Then it got bad, as the Warriors rattled off 14 straight points to win the set 25-13.
“I was scared,” Dobson said. “I was like, ‘Oh crap, we need to pull our heads out of our butts and play.’ “
“It kind of felt like TCC all over again in knowing that we can win, but we didn’t pull it out,” sophomore Cassie Mladek said. “We changed our mindset and came back.”
Almost as if they were flipping a switch, the Generals were back in control in the second set. Laura Crawford started the set with a block and Morgan McDorman followed with an ace.
“Going into the second set, I told them it is one game and one set at a time. You’ve got to play every set and every point as if it is your last match point,” McCoy said.
The second set went back and forth; Buckeye Trail had the momentum and Ridgewood was trying to steal it back. The score was 24-23 in favor of Ridgewood, and Crawford had just missed on three straight set-winning kills, something she doesn’t do very often, so Ridgewood had to call a timeout.
A Buckeye Trail player was set to serve, but a referee stopped her in the middle of her run up because time was still on the clock for the timeout. She stepped back, restarted her run up and served the ball right into the net. That point, which could’ve made the score 24-24, gave the Generals not only the 25-23 win, but momentum and confidence.
“Getting that really set us, we knew it was 1-1 and we had two more to win,” Mladek said.
“We definitely had the momentum on our side and we just carried it with us and finished the game,” McCoy said. “We talked about being more aggressive at the net and put more balls away. We had to stay aggressive.”
Their aggressiveness carried them in the third and fourth set. That fourth set is when everything was clicking for the Generals. In the previous game, their setting was a problem, but in the third and fourths sets, they set, served, received, hit and blocked the ball well.
They played virtually flawless third and fourth sets, winning 25-15 in each. McCoy said the fourth set was one of the best sets they’ve had all season.
“Everything was working for the girls at that point,” McCoy said. “The enthusiasm and the intensity level they wanted it. They wanted it bad.”
“We realized this could be our last game and we needed to change our mindset,” Dobson said.
The Generals will now play two seed Tuscarawas Valley in the district final at 3 p.m. Saturday at New Philadelphia High School.
Ridgewood is all too familiar with the Trojans, as they knocked them out of the postseason a year ago and defeated them 2-1 on Sept. 9.
“We are ready to get back. We are ready,” Mladek said.
“I think the girls wanted a little revenge,” McCoy said. “We are going to have to play defense liked we did tonight in the last three sets.”