TONTOGANY — Unlike the regular season matchup between the two teams in Swanton on Sept. 15, this time the Bulldogs were able to take a set and all match long stood toe-to-toe with No. 1 seed Fairview, but ultimately they succumbed to the Apaches 25-16, 18-25, 25-19 and 25-16 in a Division III volleyball district semifinal at Otsego High School Monday night.
“I thought we played hard the whole night,” said Swanton coach Kyle Borer. “We looked very good that second set. We started every set out with the lead, unfortunately we did not maintain that play long enough. We were too inconsistent in our serve receive and we didn’t get after it enough defensively. I’m very proud of this group of girls. I loved coaching them, so tomorrow is going to be a sad day. They accomplished so much this season, so there is a lot to be proud of. We have three great seniors who left a huge mark on this program that will be missed.”
The battle to capture momentum was evident in game three. Tied at one game apiece, the Bulldogs scored four straight points to take a 19-17 lead. They did so on right-side kills from Maddie Smith and Mackenzie Secory, a Fairview hitting error, then Maddie Smith’s ace.
However, the Dogs were shut out from that point on.
A block from Abby Smith, Swanton’s hitting error, plus three points apiece for Paige Ricica and Kelly Crites gave the set to the Apaches, 25-19.
“I believe the way the third set finished played a pivotal role in how the match ended up,” Borer said. “We were down and then came back to take the 18-17 lead. We had an ace right out of the timeout. The next play they saved a ball from going into the bleachers and that kind of changed the momentum at that point. We couldn’t control the ball in serve receive after that. We need to be able to attack the first ball on serve receive and that didn’t happen for a stretch as that set finished out. If we get that third set, maybe we play more confidently in the fourth and not so tight. We came out strong ready to play in the fourth set again, but just didn’t sustain our consistency.”
The Apaches put it away in game four. After Sofie Taylor’s block brought the Dogs to within 15-14, Fairview responded with the next four points. Two Bulldog hitting mistakes followed by kills by Ricica and Payshince McDaniel made it 19-14 in favor of the Apaches.
Fairview recorded the final three points of the night as Crites and Ricica scored from the left side, and Crites’ ace ended both the set and match.
Swanton built a 6-1 advantage in game one on the serving of senior leaders Katlyn Floyd and Taylor, forcing the Apaches to call timeout. But Fairview would later fight back and tie it at 9-9.
In the end, they scored seven of the final nine points for a 25-16 win in game one. Ricica, Aubrey Hammer, Crites and Haley Hammer each contributed down the stretch.
The second set was Swanton’s breakout game.
The Dogs went on a lengthy run in which the Apaches had trouble with serve-receive. After two Apache errors, Taylor fired off a pair of aces before a serving error made the score 19-12.
Then Maddie Smith propelled the Dogs, the team scoring five of the next six, putting them on the brink of victory. A Maddie Smith kill from the middle and a block, Morgan Smith’s ace, a Bulldog serving error plus two more from Maddie Smith extended their lead to 24-13.
“Maddie had another solid match tonight in the front row as she usually does for us,” stated Borer. “The only thing that limited her success was her timing at different moments. When she was hitting in system, they definitely struggled to defend her.”
Fairview did respond with five straight points, but a serving error ended it in favor of Swanton.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.