Fairfield volleyball storms back, knocks out Panthers
Here we go again.
After fighting off Knoxville in its first five-setter of the season Monday, the Trojan netters again made their fans sweat in a Class 4A Region 6 semifinal matchup with Mount Pleasant.
Facing a two-sets-to-none deficit Thursday at FHS, the Trojans (27-7) withstood Mount Pleasant’s best and rallied back for three straight wins to earn the right to advance. The Trojans topped the Panthers (16-16) in a 19-25, 23-25, 25-13, 25-23, 15-8 nail-biter.
Prior to this week, the Trojans hadn’t played a five-setter since losing to Centerville in the first round of the playoffs Oct. 25, 2010.
“Once again a classic match for Fairfield and Mount Pleasant, and for us this season with how close the points are,” said Fairfield head coach Nancy Diers. “I give Mount Pleasant credit, but our kids fought back, and they did a tremendous job willing themselves to get some points.”
“That was the most exhausting, stressful game I’ve ever played all four years,” added Fairfield senior Sidney Baumann. “We did not want to lose this last one on our home court.”
For the second year in a row, the Trojans are one win away from qualifying for the state tournament. The round-of-16 regional final is scheduled for next Tuesday, when the Trojans will face Cedar Rapids Xavier (25-11).
A second opportunity to make it to the state tournament is a dream come true for Baumann and senior teammate Erin Thompson. The Trojans fell just shy of a state berth last season, losing in a regional final match against Solon.
“It’s been a goal since sixth grade for us,” said Baumann.
“Forever,” chimed in Thompson. “We’re not going down without a fight.”
Both seniors had a big hand in Fairfield’s comeback Thursday. Thompson showed a knack for scoring points on the cross-court corner shots and finished with nine kills, and Baumann poured in three of Fairfield’s final eight kills in the fifth and final set. Baumann finished the match with 16 kills.
After forcing the fifth game with two straight set wins, the Trojans bounced out to a 7-3 lead. A block by sophomore Kelsi Phipps and later kill by Taryne Shull helped cut Fairfield’s lead to 9-7, but Fairfield clinched the match scoring six of the final seven points with a few heads-up kills by Baumann, plus a Sydney Howard ace sprinkled in.
“One of those things that works sometimes in volleyball is to put it over on the second hit, and Baumann is really good at finding those spots and those corners. She’s got the strength to put it deep and make the other team backpedal,” Diers said of Baumann’s final shots.
It was the Panthers’ third loss to the Trojans, but it was the first time in 2012 they had taken a set from the Trojans — let alone two. The Panthers had the momentum going for them in the first two sets. Led by senior Elinor Krieger-Coble and Phipps from the net, they played like nobody was going to beat them on that particular day.
“Game one and game two was some of the best volleyball I’ve ever seen them play,” Mount Pleasant head coach Luci Wulfekuhle said of her players. “I was proud of those games, but it’s just unfortunate that our same little things that got us all season had to come back in the last three games. I don’t know what happened in the bench walk between games two and three, but it was the turning point for us.”
The Panthers scored the first two points in the match on a Krieger-Coble kill and ace by Lauren Hillman. Their advantage quickly swelled to 12-5, and both Krieger-Coble and Linzie Hood scored several more kills to carry the Panthers to a 25-19 win.
Mount Pleasant again took an early lead in game two, going up 4-2, but Fairfield never trailed by more than two and eventually took a 21-19 lead. A kill by Krieger-Coble and two straight spikes by Phipps handed Mount Pleasant a 22-21 advantage, and the visitors remained in the lead as Phipps sent down one final kill to lock the game up at 25-23.
Phipps had a team-high 16 kills to go with four blocks in the game, while Krieger-Coble tallied 13 kills.
“They are our two go-to girls, and sometimes when they’re both out there on the floor all you want to do is go back and forth between the two of them,” said Wulfekuhle. “They’ve been battling with one another for the kills all year and they kept it alive tonight. We’re very confident in them as players.”
“Those first few sets we were pretty tight and wound-up, and Mount Pleasant played really, really well,” added Diers. “You need to give [Mount Pleasant] a lot of credit. That’s the best I’ve seen them serve, that’s the best I’ve seen them attack from their middles.”
But momentum means everything in volleyball, and it quickly swung to the home side in game three. Two straight aces by Baumann, followed by back-to-back kills by Thompson and Howard handed Fairfield a 6-1 lead. The Trojans’ lead ballooned to double-digits, their largest lead of the evening at 22-8, and eventually a 25-13 win.
“I thought that kind of got us over the hump, having that pretty good margin of points against them,” said Diers.
Fairfield’s push rolled into game four, where the Trojans again climbed to an 11-3 lead on a six-point service run by Alexis Ring. The Trojans stretched their lead to 18-10, but the Panthers clawed back and tied the game at 20-all following a kill by Hood, then took the lead at 21-20. The two rivals traded blows until Fairfield took the lead for good on a Baumann kill at 24-23.
“We just had to pull ourselves up, and I just knew conditioning-wise and fundamental-wise we’d be in good shape if we could just keep plugging away and get through those hot points,” Diers said.
In addition to a team-high kills total, Baumann totaled three aces on 22-of-23 serving and 22 digs. Thompson scored on two serves and Howard had 11 kills to go with 10 digs. Junior libero Cheyanne Laux had a team-high 34 digs, and Sydney Burnett had 22 digs and 24 assists. Marisa Repp tallied seven kills and two blocks, McKenna Ledger slammed five spikes and Greiner finished with a pair of blocks. Alexis Ring supplied 12 assists.
“I thought McKenna had one of her best games, Alexis showed a lot of composure as a sophomore out there and Cheyanne had a tremendous day of serve receiving and had some really nice digs all through the match, but especially game five,” Diers said.
The Trojans now set their sights on Xavier, who topped Clear Creek-Amana in straight sets Thursday.
“We had scouts up there last night, so we’ll look at film on them today and we’ve got tonight and Sunday and Monday to practice for them,” said Diers.
Expect an exciting one — as always — when Fairfield travels to the regional final at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Washington.
Class 4A Region 6 Semifinal
Fairfield vs. Mount Pleasant
FAIRFIELD — 19, 23, 25, 25, 15
MOUNT PLEASANT — 25, 25, 13, 23, 8
DIGS — (FF) Laux 34, Burnett 22, Baumann 21, Howard 10, Ring 4, Thompson 4, Payne 4, Greiner 3, Ledger 2; (MP) Chabal 20, Hillman 11, Loving 10, Hood 9 Krieger-Coble 6, Potts 5, Liechty 5, Long 4, Phipps 1, Shull 1, Pullis 1
SERVING — (FF) Baumann 22-23 (3), Thompson 18-18 (2), Burnett 20-21 (1), Laux 12-12 (1), Ring 15-15, Howard (1); (MP) Chabal 17-17 (1), Loving 16-16 (1), Krieger-Coble 17-19 (1), Potts 13-14 (2), Hillman 10-11 (1), Liechty 10-11
KILLS — (FF) Baumann 16, Howard 11, Thompson 9, Repp 7, Ledger 5, Burnett 2, Greiner 1; (MP) Phipps 16, Krieger-Coble 13, Shull 9, Hood 7, Potts 2, Liechty 2, Loving 1
ASSISTS — (FF) Burnett 24, Ring 12, Thompson 2, Greiner 1, Ledger 1; (MP) Hillman 17, Chabal 3, Potts 1
BLOCKS (solo-asst-tot) — Greiner 2-0-2, Repp 2-0-2, Baumann 1-0-1, Thompson 1-0-1; (MP) Phipps 1-3-4, Shull 2-1-3, Smith 0-3-3, Liechty 1-0-1
SERVE RECEIVE — Laux 25-33, Baumann 15-20, Howard 13-18, Payne 3-3, Greiner 0-1