The Lady Raiders won the odd games, the Lady Mustangs won the even games. Fortunately for Cleveland the 5-AAA volleyball battle inside “The Stable” had more odd games than even.
The Lady Raiders stayed unbeaten with 25-12, 25-13 and 15-11 in games one, three and five. The Lady Mustangs fought for victories in games two and four by scores of 25-20 and 25-18.
“We wanted to win. We played well at times and we didn’t play so well at other times,” said Lady Mustangs coach Judy Pruett who has been without the services of senior Baylee Boen. “But, we’ll see them again and hopefully, Baylee will be 100 percent. Tonight was her first night back on the court. She is not 100 percent by any means.”
Lady Raiders coach Trish Flowers said afterward the Lady Raiders knew it would be a fight to the finish.
“We can’t mention this game without knowing it could possibly go five games. We knew they wanted it just as bad as we did,” she said. “Walker Valley is a strong team. I felt the games we lost, we were their best player. We had a lot of unforced errors in the games we lost.”
Cleveland jumped out front and controlled the game tempo in the first tilt, building a 6-2 lead behind senior outside hitter Marissa Langford. Cleveland built a 12-7 lead into a 17-10 advantage before closing out the first game with a 5-1 run.
Langford finished the night with an astounding 37 kills.
“They’ve got one great hitter and the rest of the team kind of follows in. We didn’t really want to get beat by just one player, but we kind of did at different times,” said Pruett.
“Both teams played well. It was a great game effort on both sides.”
Walker Valley fought back from a 7-4 deficit in game two and took a led 13-10 after an Ashlyn Flock kill. Langford pulled the Lady Raiders within one at 17-16, but the Lady Mustangs reeled off six straight points to go up 23-16. Cleveland battled back to make it 23-20 before Walker Valley closed it out with a Rachel Lawhorn block for the final point.
Games three and four were virtual repeats of the first two matches, with Cleveland controlling game three and the Lady Mustangs breaking a 17-17 tie to run off seven straight points before locking up game four.
The finale saw Cleveland break a 3-3 tie with a Kellee Geren ace and Langford kill to go up by two. Boen put Walker Valley on top 7-6 and MiKayla Lumpkin broke an 8-8 tie to put the Lady Mustangs out front once again by a slim 9-8 margin.
Langford came through with two kills to go with an Addie Strode service point giving the Lady Raiders an 11-9 lead. Walker Valley closed it at 11-all with an Alex Rominger ace. From there, Langford took over for the Lady Raiders and sealed the win with four consecutive kills, giving Cleveland the 15-11 victory.
“She is the best hitter in our area. There hasn’t been a hitter we have seen yet that has compared to her. It’s not that she’s that big, it’s that she jumps so high and she mixes it up. And she is very fast and athletic,” Flowers said of her big hitter.
“I’m very proud of the team, they did a fantastic job. I have to give a shout out to Kellee Geren. She is very coachable, very levelheaded and she is getting it done out there for us.”
Geren notched 43 assists and 13 digs on the night for Cleveland. Strode finished the night with 33 service points for Cleveland while Langford had 29 digs and 18 receptions to go with her kills. KK Clements ended with 23 digs. Lady Raiders’ libero Eva Wilhelm notched 53 digs, 27 service points and 29 receptions. Lauren Lee ended her night with 18 digs and 13 receptions.
Flock ended with 18 assists and 10 digs for the Lady Mustangs while Madison Pruett booked 10 kills, nine digs and nine receptions. Abby Campbell worked for 16 assists and 11 digs, Baylee Boen finished with nine digs and Alex Rominger notched 10 receptions. Gracie Pierce had 12 digs and Rachel Lawhorn walked away with nine kills.