After University High had recorded an emphatic victory in the fourth game to tie Tuesday’s Division IV, District 3, match with homestanding Episcopal, Knights coach Madeline Blanchard-Gugich stepped into her team’s huddle with one message.
“I said let’s put our foot on the gas, put it all the way down and don’t tap the brakes,” she said. “They laughed and said they would take care of it.”
Episcopal jumped out to an 11-5 lead in the fifth and decisive game, had to hold off one final charge in which University pulled even before three successive hitting errors opened the door for the Knights to win 15-12 in a two-hour marathon.
Episcopal (8-6, 3-1 in district) claimed the tense match 3-2, overcoming a 21-25 setback with consecutive wins 25-21, 25-23 before the U-High made a statement with a 25-13 win, setting up the winner-take-all finale.
“It’s a matter of when we take control, we take control,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said. “But when we don’t, we always have to fight back. You never know what calls can be made or what can happen at the end the game. If you take care at the beginning, you wouldn’t have to worry about the last call.”
Episcopal built its biggest run of 4-0 in the final set after a side out after U-High served into the net.
The Knights, with Ryleigh Volland serving, established an 11-5 lead after kills from Francie Oliver and Lauren Patterson, coupled with an ace from Volland.
U-High (7-8, 3-2), which had won five of its past six matches, stormed back and pulled even at 12-12 with the combination of setter Nadia Pereira and outside hitter Elise Doomes working in concert on four straight points to close a 7-1 run.
However, the Cubs were whistled for a pair of four-hit violations and committed a serve-receive error that led to the Knights’ final points and the match.
Doomes finished with 14 kills, seven aces and seven digs, while Colleen Temple added 11 kills, three blocks and Pereira 21 assists.
Izzy Bezzleman topped Episcopal with 17 kills and 11 digs. Lauren Patterson added 12 kills and 13 assists, Volland nine kills, 17 digs and two aces and Mason Bruns four kills and six blocks.
Episcopal broke away after a sixth tie to win the second game on the strength of a 6-0 run with Bezzleman contributing three kills and a block. The Knights, who led for most of the third game, found themselves in a 23-23 deadlock when Patterson scored off a block and Oliver and Bezzleman combined for a block of Temple and a 25-23 win.
“As a coach you’re proud of your girls,” Blanchard-Gugich said. “I hope we can keep climbing the ladder. This is a good time for us to be kind of peaking.”