It sure wasn’t pretty, and at times the volleyball on both sides of the court was just downright ugly.
But in crunch time Swanton’s Sofie Taylor set the best options as the Bulldogs came from behind to take a 17-25, 17-25, 25-10, 25-19, 15-13 win over Evergreen Tuesday.
The victory, coupled with Bryan’s win over Archbold, created a three-way tie with the Bulldogs, Streaks and Golden Bears at the top of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League volleyball race.
“Last year we missed out on that goal of winning the league,” said Swanton coach Kyle Borer. “Last week we had a chance to clinch a share and we didn’t do it. Since Bryan helped us out, I just want to say thank you.”
It didn’t take long for the match to turn into “Nightmare On County Road 6” as Swanton whiffed twice, muffed a set and mishit an attack out, helping Evergreen to a 5-0.
McKenna Babcock nailed two aces to make it 7-0 before what has been a horror show for the Vikings all season, a missed serve, stopped the run.
Taylor’s ace, along with two more missed Evergreen serves got Swanton back to within 9-5 but two Babcock kills — one from Maddie Smith in the middle and a free ball that fell in the midst of three Bulldogs — ramped the lead to 15-6.
Nicole Johnson’s four kills and two more from Babcock in the midst of a number of Bulldog attacks that went out finished the first set.
It was more of the same in the second set as Babcock accounted for six kills and a trifecta of aces to offset a bundle of..yep you guessed it..missed serving opportunities, to hold off Swanton again in the second set.
In the third set it was double hits, missed serves along with Bulldog aces from Taylor, Emma Operacz and Sammi Taylor to boost Swanton out to a 21-10 lead.
Brooke Dockery and Katlyn Floyd each scored blocks and Dockery’s shot from the left ended the third set.
Three straight Evergreen blocks from Smith began the fourth set but Avril Roberts countered with two slap dunks off blocks to keep Swanton close.
“She’s been our strongest in the middle all season long,” expressed Borer of his senior blocker. “We couldn’t control the ball off their serve to save our lives for a while.”
Then the multitude of horrific errors began again.
A missed serve, a muff, two possible dunks where an Evergreen attacker stuffed themselves helped draw the Bulldogs even.
Another attack that went out and Operacz’ ace pushed Swanton ahead 11-9.
“Thankfully after we couldn’t receive serves they bailed us out with missed serves late, especially in the last set,” said Borer.
A Swanton service mistake, a whiff and a shot that was way long moved Evergreen back ahead but a muffed set evened the score at 12-12.
Roberts gave the Bulldogs a 14-13 lead with another dunk but Babcock’s bullet from the left made it 16-15 Vikings.
Brianna Sintobin’s left-hand tip kept the Evergreen lead at 17-16 but a serve into the net started an 8-0 Swanton run.
Morgan Smith’s kill regained a Bulldog lead.
Roberts followed with a push then came a shot long by the Vikes, another into the net, a whiffed set and Sofie Taylor’s ace where two Vikings looked at each other as the ball dropped between them to put the Bulldogs in a comfort zone heading to the fifth set.
Two more Roberts’ dunks and two kills by Smith rocketed Swanton up 4-0 in the last set.
Floyd’s left-side kill made it 7-4.
Johnson brought the Vikes back to tie the score at sevens with a shot off the back line and an ace. Another double hit, Floyd’s tip and another muff put Swanton up 10-7. Smith’s block of an overpass got Evergreen back to 10-9.
Then it was Babcock again with a bomb from the left and an ace to deadlock the set at 12-12.
Her next serve was long, but the Bulldogs’ next attack was the same bringing the score to 13-13.
Evergreen dug up a Bulldog try for the lead but the next set didn’t go Babcock’s way and Taylor found Smith for a kill giving Swanton the lead.
Again Evergreen had a chance to tie, but again the attack came from the opposite side of Babcock and one more time Taylor found Smith for the game-winner.
“There was a stretch where we tried to keep them out of system,” explained Borer. “At that time McKenna was just rolling the ball over because she wasn’t getting it where she wanted and hitting the ball hard. We struggled defending her tonight.
“We have someone who finds the right people at the right times (Sofie Taylor), and she did that the last few points when it really counted.”
The Bulldogs begin tournament play Monday against the Delta Panthers in the Division III sectional.
Evergreen drew a bye and plays the winner of Montpelier and Green Meadows Conference power Fairview on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org