Have you circled October 13 on your calendar? If not, go do it now. That’s when Beaverton and Gladwin play again and if last Wednesday’s volleyball match was any indication of things to come you won’t want to miss it.
The first match had a little bit of everything from long rallies to aces, from powerful kills to diving digs. The girls from both schools put on a show and the large crowd in the Gladwin gym roared its appreciation all night. All in all it was one of the best contests between the schools that I have witnessed in my three years at the Record.
There were times during the match that I almost couldn’t trust my eyes. The Beaverton front line had several blocks that looked like sure points and the diving one-armed digs by the Gladwin girls were impressive. Both teams made plays all over the court and both coaches commented on it after the match.
“That was one of the best matches we have had with Gladwin,” said Beaverton Coach Steve Evans. “It was an even battle where every point mattered. The difference was just a few plays here and there.” Gladwin Coach Tony Wetmore had similar thoughts. “Six points separated us at the end of the night,” said Wetmore. Beaverton scored 106 points to Gladwin’s 100. “If you had told me over the summer that we’d be in the fifth set against Beaverton, playing at home, with a score of 11-11, I would have been ecstatic.”
Gladwin got off to a good start taking the first set 25-17. The teams traded leads early and Gladwin was up 14-12 when Delaney Conley served four straight points with the help of kills by Lizzie Haines and Erin Breault to grab an 18-12 lead. The Beavers didn’t get closer than four points the rest of the way.
The second set was all Beaverton. After an early 1-0 deficit Alexis Grove served five straight points to put the Beavers up 6-1. Leiyah Mungin served seven straight points later in the set as Beaverton raced out to a 15-3 lead. The Beavers were able to maintain their lead and go on to win the second set 25-13.
The third set was close throughout. Gladwin scored the first three points of the set before Beaverton scored four straight to go ahead 4-3. It went back and forth from there with six lead changes and 11 ties. Gladwin had multiple set points including 24-21 and later 25-24, but couldn’t close it out. Three straight Beaverton points gave them the set 27-25.
The Flying G’s came back strong in the fourth set leading by seven, 16-9, at one point. Beaverton was able to close the gap to 24-22 before a kill by Breault secured the Gladwin win. With the match tied 2-2 the teams went to a deciding fifth set.
“This match could have gone either way they outplayed us on some points and we outplayed them on some,” added Evans. “When both teams are in system they can control the game making it a constant battle.” Wetmore added, “It was a roller coaster ride. This match showed that we can play at a high level, but we have to focus. If we lose focus we don’t play well.”
That loss of focus may have hurt the Flying G’s in the fifth set. Or maybe it was just all of the big games that Beaverton has been a part of over the previous two seasons. You don’t get to back-to-back final fours without being able to handle pressure situations. Whatever the reason Beaverton jumped out to a 9-3 lead before Gladwin got on track.
“We talked to our players this week about being mentally prepared to play five sets,” said Evans. “Being mentally strong and poised is going to be really big for us this year.” Wetmore noticed it during the match. “Beaverton has had a lot of big games over the last two years. They play with a calm experience that comes from being mentally tough and having big game experience.”
The Flying G’s showed some mental toughness of their own. They battled all the way back and tied the score 11-11. The two-hour match was coming down to the last four points. After a side out gave the Beavers a 12-11 lead Kaelyn Fischer served the final three points and Beaverton took the set 15-11 and the match 3-2. “Hats off to the Beaverton girls and Steve Evans. They have flawless mechanics and understand their defense better than anyone we see. They were able to give us probably the 10-15 longest rallies we have had all season.”
Hannah Stearns 17 kills, 19 digs for the Beavers. Alexis Grove added 13 digs, 8 kills, 5 aces;Leiyah Mungin 14 assists, 8 kills, 17 digs, Kaelyn Fischer 22 assists, 13 digs, Faith Danielak 9 kills, Sawyer Gerow 33 digs.
Renae Pratt had 15 kills and 31 digs for Gladwin. Erin Breault also had 15 kills along with 21 digs; Delaney Reynolds 23 digs, 7 kills, Delaney Conley29 assists, 26 digs, 8 assists, Lizzie Haines 6 digs, 6 kills, 3 aces
With the victory the Beavers improved to 2-0 in the conference and 13-7 overall. Gladwin falls to 1-1, 13-2 overall. “Gladwin is a really solid team all around. Their defense is relentless and they can score from all over,” concluded Evans. “They make you cover the entire court. I’m really proud of our girls for battling for over 200 points.”