CENTREVILLE — In a gym that nearly cooked spectators and athletes alike to a medium-well state on a muggy early September night, the Centreville volleyball team answered the call when the heat was turned up.
Visiting Colon seemed to be putting the final touches on a sweep before realizing late in the third game that it took its foot off the gas too early. After having defeated the Bulldogs 25-23 and 25-13 in the first two games, the Magi couldn’t shake the host squad after the third game was locked at 23-23. Centreville claimed the next two points to extend the best-of-five match.
Colon jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth game, but Centreville regained control with a 10-8 advantage with a little help from a boisterous Bulldogs student section hanging over the second-level railing. A communication breakdown at the net by the Magi gave Centreville a 15-10 lead and the host squad would go on to win 25-23.
With the decisive fifth game knotted up at 10-10, Centreville played in control and rattled off the next five points to finish the rally.
“The girls didn’t give up,” Centreville coach Melissa Gales said. “They love this sport and they work hard and they proved that they will take it five games to get the job done. They’ve put in so much hard work. We just said keep the ball in play … we can’t attack offensively if we’re giving them easy points. [Colon] had some really good servers that picked at us.”
Bailey May had three aces, six kills, 16 digs and a block, Madison Hunter registered three aces and 19 assists, Nellie Pence laced seven kills, Mattie Kirby added kills and 19, Jenna Beeker contributed 14 digs and Charity Yeager had 14 digs to lead the Bulldogs.
Despite doubt early on, Hunter said she could tell her team wasn’t about to surrender.
“At times, when we were down, we made eye contact and I could see in everyone’s eyes we want it,” she said. “It’s a mental game.”
Colon coach Crystal Delp knows that’s true. The Magi showed plenty of resolve as well after letting the match get away from them, but the win slipped just out of reach.
“What I felt happened was our net aggression let off,” she explained. “They didn’t want to make a mistake; they didn’t want to lose their head. This has been one of our problems all season is our confidence at the net.
“We started playing safe. I don’t like playing safe, but you also don’t want to shake the boat either. They were just too afraid to get intense and too into it. It’s a great learning experience. If we can learn from every game; that’s my goal.”
Centreville’s Kirby acknowledged the home gym advantage was particularly strong Monday at a school that has seen a closeness among all athletes develop recently.
“Our student section really helped,” she said. “Melissa [Gales] is always pushing us to that next level and the student section was there cheering us on. It’s just like a community thing. You have to do it for them not just for yourself.”