Archbold had Evergreen on the ropes, up two sets and set up for a big knockout of the three-time reigning NWOAL volleyball champs.
Then, showing the heart of a champion, the Vikings came from way back to deliver a fifth set knockout of their own to win 18-25, 25-27, 25-16, 25-14, 15-8, and keep within a game of league leading Patrick Henry in the league title chase.
“Even the second set that we lost we played with a lot of heart after that first set,” said Viking coach Kelsey Wulf. “We played with a lot of tenacity to pull through those last three sets. I kept telling them in the huddles, ‘play like you’re down, you’ve got nothing to lose at this point and whatever you do don’t hit neutral, keep pushing the gas’.”
It was Archbold who hit the gas early and landed a knockdown blow in the first set as back-to-back Morgan Miller aces and a couple of Macey Rupp kills at the net on a block and smoke job from the middle boosted the Streaks to a 15-6 lead.
Evergreen battled back to trail just 16-15 as Jamie VanLoocke landed two shots from the left and Lauren Overfield scored an ace, but a critical serve went out and Archbold used a Morgan Miller kill and Taylor Miller’s ace to regain control and win the first set.
It was Rupp, time and time again landing big hits from the right and the middle, along with a trio of Alyssa Ziegler kills from the left side to help give the Streaks a 21-18 lead.
However, this time it was an Archbold serve into the net that got Evergreen a chance to get back in the set and Alyssa Noe’s slam from the right side two points later knotted it at 21.
After the teams traded points, VanLoocke again delivered off a block attempt to tie the set at 23 and a free ball that fell between two Streaks at the backline put Evergreen at set point.
Miller tied it back up with a tip and Ziegler rifled a shot through a block to put Archbold ahead.
A shot into the net by the Streaks tied the set one last time at 25, but an Evergreen attack went out and another Taylor Miller ace ended it.
“I think we were kind of slow the first couple sets. We haven’t played in a week and I think they caught us off guard a little bit and (we missed) some shots in the back row that we usually get,” said Wulf regarding the first two sets.
Then to paraphrase a Rocky Balboa quote, the Vikes said “I’m not goin’ down anymore!,” and began firing salvos back at the Blue Streaks.
Megan Floyd and Lindsay Carr nailed a pair of kills each, and along with Lexie Truckor’s ace, Evergreen blew out to a 9-2 lead.
Kori Kreuz stuffed an overpass at the net, Overfield stuck consecutive aces and Floyd ripped a crossing shot that extended that lead to 20-10 before Kreuz’ shot from the right finished off the set.
Ziegler and Floyd hit and countered each other three times early in the fourth set, and Rupp and Carr traded blows twice as Archbold took a slim 9-8 lead.
Then it was Noe who stung the Blue Streaks with a series of blows, first on a blast off a blocker, then back-to-back serving aces that helped Evergreen jump out to a 15-9 lead.
“Alyssa and Megan Floyd each had big games for us,” said Wulf. “We set them on both sides and they just got in rhythm and got hot.”
Archbold hung in striking distance as Morgan Miller and Lexie Shipman exchanged shots at the net but a pair of double hit calls on Archbold and Kreuz’ bullet off a quick set from Hannah Herr bumped the lead to 22-14 where VanLoocke scored from the left and Overfield again stuck the wood with consecutive aces to knot the match at two sets each.
Morgan Miller’s two kills to start the third set were alternated with a couple attack errors by the Streaks, making the score 3-3 before Evergreen sent Archbold reeling with yet another run.
Floyd went through a blocker on the right, Truckor scored an ace, Carr two-hand dunked a Streak overpass and a Streak attack that went out gave the Vikes a 7-3 lead.
Rupp blasted two lasers through the middle around Carr’s fake swing and push to get Archbold within 9-6, but Evergreen delivered what in essence was a knockout punch.
After a Blue Streak shot went out, Overfield delivered her seventh ace of the night, Shipman nailed a thunder-like first ball slam and Noe stuck a quick set to give Evergreen a 13-7 lead before a pair of Archbold errors ended the match.
“I told them in game four and five to really make them work on serve receive and not let Macey Rupp get a chance to attack,” explained Wulf. “I think we did that, we were a lot more aggressive serving and luckily it paid off. We were able to throw them off in serve receive and get them out of their system.
“I told them we already have one league loss and we can’t afford another. We still control our own destiny and we still have big games left with Delta, Liberty Center and of course Patrick Henry. But we needed this one first.”
Evergreen and Swanton both trail PH by a game in the NWOAL standings.
The Vikings now play at home Saturday against Otsego before traveling to Delta next Tuesday.
Reach Joe Blystone at [email protected]