By Colin Harris | Staff writer
The biggest takeaway from Thursday evening's PTC Metro Division volleyball clash between Kent Roosevelt and Crestwood is that their next meeting at the end of the season will be one to mark on your calendar.
Roosevelt (7-1 overall, 5-0 PTC Metro) survived an early --and late -- flurry from the host Red Devils as both teams were pushed to their limits before the Rough Riders gutted out a 15-25, 25-19, 24-26, 15-10 victory.
Neither team had been pushed to five games thus far this year, so when Crestwood's Morgan Strenk tipped the ball over the net in the fourth game for a 26-24 Red Devils victory, Roosevelt head coach Tracy Reschke said that she knew the opening of the fifth -- and final -- game would be critical.
"We knew that Crestwood would fight us and come back, because that's the kind of team they are," Reschke said. "When Crestwood took (the fourth game), we knew that we were going to be in for a close fifth game."
The Red Devils (12-2, 4-1) carried their momentum into the fifth game, scoring the first two points. Roosevelt was able to answer, however, rattling off five straight points on the strength of senior Cortnee Bowser's play at the net.
Taking advantage of rallies was of vital important to Reschke's gameplan, the second-year coach said.
"When we got a run at any point, we knew that we had to just keep attacking and attacking Crestwood," Reschke said. "I was proud of the way out girls responded to (Crestwood's run) to start that fifth game and when we got the lead back, I felt like it was our game to lose."
Reschke's prediction was correct, as Roosevelt never allowed Crestwood to get any closer than three points in the final game. Bowser and sophomore Sophi Cudworth took advantage of their size at the net, hammering down kills and switching up with light tips at the net to keep the Red Devils' defense off-balance.
It was a rising Bowser who sealed the victory with a kill that was too strong for the Red Devils' JoAnna Ondash to safely handle.
Bowser had a tremendous game, as the senior finished her night with 32 kills, six blocks and three aces. Cudworth was equally effective when called upon, racking up 23 kills to go along with two serving aces.
Bowser said that she tried her best to play the role of team leader in a big game setting, maintaining her cool during Crestwood's runs, while still playing her role as a top-line offensive weapon.
"I just knew I had to go out and play cool and play relaxed, while also trying to go out of my way to get to some balls that I wouldn't normally be expected to," Bowser said. "Because I really feel like, when our team is meshing and (playing with confidence), we're unstoppable out there."
With a rowdy home crowd behind it, Crestwood came out guns blazing during the first game.
After taking a lead at 12-11, the Red Devils went on a 6-0 run on the strength of play by junior Holly Hoffman and Morgan Strenk. With a commanding lead at 23-14, a tip by senior Taylor Adkins and a game-winning kill by junior Hayley Zigman sealed an emotional win for the Red Devils.
Emotion was what fueled the Red Devils, who staked a claim on Thursday as every bit the Rough Riders' equal -- even if the two teams' physical measurable might not be equal.
"Obviously, Kent Roosevelt is bigger than us and all we have to run on is hustle and heart," Crestwood head coach Britany Mayle said. "We run on emotion and when we're good, we can be really good. But it's a double-edged sword for us, at the same time."
Hoffman finished with nine points, two aces, 11 kills, 33 assists, three blocks and 13 digs for the Red Devils in a very well-rounded effort. Zigman finished with six points, two aces, 13 digs, two assists, nine blocks and eight digs. Strenk finished with five points, one ace, eight kills, two assists, eight blocks and nine digs.