SILVERDALE — Down two games to one on the road against Klahowya on Sept. 19, the Buccaneers were on the path toward a tough loss.
The team had struggled through parts of the match, especially in dealing with the Eagles’ pinpoint service, which had kept them off-balance early on.
But Kingston (3-3) mustered one final rally in the fourth set, sparked by a teriffic kill from freshman Morgan Halady to break a 19-all deadlock, and two subsequent blocks that turned the set in its favor. From there, the Bucs went on to win the five-set thriller, 19-25, 25-14, 27-29, 25-19, 15-13.
“We clawed out of an ugly hole that we dug for ourselves tonight, and that’s a good thing,” said Kingston head coach Ed Call, who said his team otherwise struggled through the match.
Led by junior Ava McCabe and her 14 kills, Kingston overcame a few letdowns through sheer grit and determination — as well as some timely big plays.
The Bucs held a 23-14 advantage late in Set 3, looking as if they had finally rounded into form after dominating the second game. A close spike from Klahowya’s Chloe Settle was ruled in, and Call appeared to disagree. The point was the first of an 11-1 run which saw the Eagles tie the set at 24. The game see-sawed from there as the teams went point-for-point before junior Katrien Lont closed the set with an ace.
“We’re a young team and we’re going to continue to get better,” said Klahowya head coach Wendy Kraft. “To play a five-setter against a team like Kingston is not necessarily what we were expecting tonight.”
With the momentum on their side, the Eagles jumped out to a 7-3 lead in Set 4. Kingston rallied back thanks to consecutive aces by senior Natalie Barringer-Mullins, but Klahowya once more took a four-point lead, forcing the Buccaneers to close the gap once more.
In the winner-take-all Set 5, Kingston took an 8-7 lead on another kill from Halady and pushed their lead further on a pair of aces by McCabe. Klahowya threatened to send the final set into volleyball’s version of overtime with a kill by Lont that made the score 14-13, but on the ensuing serve, the last of senior setter Cece Mercado’s 45 assists went to McCabe, who finished the match with a kill.
In contrast with past games, Klahowya’s serving was one of its strengths as the Eagles tallied 15 aces in the match, led by six from Settle and four from junior Taylor Bruce. The young squad also committed very few service errors, which Kraft said has been an issue so far this season.
“Service was outstanding, and in games we have lost, we had at least five missed serves,” said Kraft. “You take those points away and it’s a different game. So we have to be more consistent with our serving — we need to cut those service errors out.”
The Eagles’ hot hitting kept the Kingston defense on its toes. Senior libeiro Ryley Tellinghuisen finished with a match-high with 26 digs, and Mercado picked up another 15.
“I think we had to play very scrappy as a team,” said McCabe. “We definitely could have been more in-system, but overall we played unified and together.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at mkrulish@soundpub lishing.com.