NEWARK — This one could have been for a district or regional championship. There is no Licking County County League volleyball title match, but that’s what it felt like.
And so, Newark Catholic’s Wave Pool student section chanted “LCL! LCL!” after the Cardinal Division champion Green Wave rallied from down 2-0 to beat Buckeye Division champ Granville 20-25, 18-25, 25-21, 25-21, 15-12 on NC’s senior night.
Earlier, the Green Wave (19-1, 12-0) had won 3-0 at Granville, but the Blue Aces were ready this time. NC had to dig deep in a match sure to benefit both teams for the upcoming tournament. There were long rallies, great digs and blocks, and intense hitting.
Christina Harrison, who had 17 kills, 12 digs and four assists, had two big kills early in the fifth set as Granville (16-2, 12-1) led 6-2. But NC senior Christine Joyce had two kills, one of the emphatic variety that lit a fire under the home crowd, then teamed with Madison Crumrine on a block as the Green Wave seized back the lead for good. They finished on senior Taylor Daignault’s authoritative spike after the Blue Aces got within 13-12 on a block by Emilee Skerbetz.
“When I got that kill, it gave us the motivation to finish,” said Joyce, who finished with 12 kills and a key seven blocks. “As sophomores, we were down to them 2-0 at their place and came back to win, so we knew we could do it again.”
“Things like that, putting the ball down on the two-foot line, give you a huge shot of momentum,” said Daignault, stellar again with 28 kills and 17 digs. “It gives it to you whether you’re up or down, and our student section kept cheering and gave us the momentum, too.”
Behind the splendid all-around play of Brooklyn Holthaus, and the hitting of Harrison and Skerbetz, Granville came out on the attack in the first two sets. In the second one, the Blue Aces led just 19-18 before freshman Emily Shomaker had a block and Harrison a pair of kills as the Blue Aces looked to be in control 2-0.
“They’re so talented,” NC coach Jeri Helfer said. “They were exploding their tips and had us on our heels. We spent so much time playing defense, we couldn’t get our offense going.”
The Green Wave started getting more players involved. Freshman Samantha Basham, relying on accurate sets from Megan Stanton, had some key kills late as NC pulled from a 21-20 edge to a 25-21 third-set win. And Joyce scored late in the fourth set off a Stanton assist to help force the fifth set.
“It was blood and guts,” Joyce said. “We all wanted it so bad. We knew how to play; we just had to execute. We relied on our conditioning and mental toughness. We might complain about the conditioning, but it helped us tonight.”
“It was pure guts, go all out and keep the game simple,” Daignault said. “We couldn’t let each other get down on ourselves.”
Stanton had 35 assists, four kills and four blocks for NC, while libero Ashley Harkless came through with 22 digs and two aces.
Although it was a bitter pill to swallow, Granville coach Todd Parkison said it almost didn’t feel like a loss, with how well his team played.
“Especially compared to the way we played the first time,” he said. “We didn’t show up. But tonight, we played our game. We didn’t play well in just the first two games, but all five games.”
Holthaus had quite the stat line: 36 assists, 13 digs, seven blocks, five kills and two aces. Skerbetz had 12 kills and six blocks.
“We needed a game like this going into the tournament. Heck, they needed a game like this,” Helfer said. “We needed to face the adversity of having to battle back, because at some point, we’re going to have to.”
For more photos by Sara C. Tobias and video from Dave Weidig, go to NewarkAdvocate.com.