HOWARD — Look out members of the Mid-Buckeye Conference. There’s a new top dog in town.
The East Knox High School girls volleyball team took a giant step toward a league title by defeating the Fredericktown Freddies in five games, 25-27, 25-17, 25-21, 14-25, 15-7, on Tuesday night. The win is one of the biggest in the Bulldogs’ (8-1, 5-0 MBC) history.
“This is big,” said East Knox coach Brooke Doup. “What’s phenomenal about the win is I went to Fredericktown. (Rutherford) was my coach. Everything I’ve learned I’ve learned from her so to reiterate everything at East Knox is great. When I got here, they didn’t know simple drills, and we’ve been able to bring the program to where it is. This is huge, but we’ve got Centerburg tomorrow. It is nice that we are still gaining respect, and by beating the biggest team in the league, that will go a long way.”
Right from the start, East Knox went after Fredericktown. The Bulldogs scored the first six points of Game 1, and held an 11-3 lead four servers in. Emily Morris and Sierra Mazzaro were dominating at the net, fueling the run. Fredericktown rallied by scoring five of the next six points, but East Knox kept the Freddies at bay with three points of its own.
“We knew going in that we were going to have a fight; East Knox is playing really good volleyball,” said Fredericktown coach Marilyn Rutherford. “They are real scrappy. They’ve picked up a lot of very good wins against good teams, so we knew what we were getting into.”
A series of errors by the Bulldogs helped the Freddies go on a 9-1 tear and take the lead, 17-16, but East Knox returned the favor. A serve out of bounds led East Knox on a 8-2 spurt to game point, 24-19, before Fredericktown rallied once again. Behind the serving of Lyndsey Briegel, the Freddies scored six straight points to go up, 25-24. A block by Lindsey VanHoose slowed the Freddies for East Knox, but didn’t stop them. Fredericktown got a block and an ace from Adrienne Robbins to end the game.
“That was good experience for the girls to go through,” said Rutherford. “It is never over, and we proved that. If you play hard and smarter, you can have an outcome like that.”
“We like to play the cat and mouse game,” Doup said of her team. “I wish we didn’t, but that’s how it works for us. I felt good about it coming out. I knew it was our night.”
Fredericktown kept up its momentum in Game 2, taking an early 6-1 lead. East Knox continued to battle, however, eventually taking a 10-9 advantage. The lead bounced back and forth over the next few servers before the Bulldogs took charge once and for all. East Knox scored 10 of the last 11 points for a 25-17 victory.
Evened up, East Knox was just warming up. The Bulldogs rallied to a Game 3 victory after Fredericktown jumped out to an 8-3 lead. East Knox beat the Freddies at their own game, outhustling them when it mattered. Fredericktown managed to keep it close, pulling within one on several occasions, but a 4-1 run ended the game, 25-21.
“We’ve been working on our defense and on our movement,” said Doup. “I taught my team to watch the other team and their mannerisms. When they start collapsing, we feed off that. We watched Fredericktown tonight slowly collapsing, and we let them make the errors. Then we fed off that.”
Now with the upper hand, East Knox found it didn’t matter as Game 4 began. Fredericktown came right at the Bulldogs, attacking. Two kills by Katelyn Newkirk and an ace from Courtney Briegel started the Freddies off and they didn’t look back. Before long, East Knox found itself behind, 10-4, forcing a timeout. The Bulldogs tried to make a comeback, but the Freddies were simply too strong and eventually pulled ahead by 12, 22-10. East Knox made one last-ditch effort, scoring four point in a row before Fredericktown forced Game 5 with a 25-14 victory.
In the deciding game, both teams battled, matching the other point for point. It wasn’t until a Fredericktown serving violation the East Knox got the break it needed. Behind the serving of Morris, the Bulldogs rattled off six straight points to go ahead, 8-3. The Freddies tried to break the Bulldogs’ serve, and were successful on three occasions, but East Knox took the 15-7 victory.
“Game 5 is hard because you only get 15 points,” said Doup. “There is no leeway so you’ve got to have the momentum. Tonight, the crowd - I’ve never seen the kids get into the game like they did tonight and we fed off of that.”
“We’re disappointed, but we are a determined group,” Rutherford said. “There are things we need to work on. We need to show we are improving week in and week out. Hopefully we will get back on track where we want to be.”
VanHoose led East Knox with 33 assists, 11 points, eight digs and eight blocks. Morris had one assist, 15 points, 27 digs, 13 points and eight blocks; Hayley Gray added six points and 18 digs; Allison Henthorn finished with one assist, six points and 20 digs; and Mazzaro added two assists, seven points, 20 digs, six kills and two blocks. Also, Tessa Simmons had 20 digs and 13 kills; Emily Wells finished with nine points, nine digs and two kills; and Morgan Durfee added six digs, two kills and nine blocks.
“I’m enjoying myself now. I’m enjoying them being competitive and wanting to win,” Doup said. “It has never been like that here. East Knox has never wanted to be the top dog and now they do. We’re just focused on what comes next.”
What’s next for East Knox is a road trip to perennial MBC power Centerburg on Thursday. The Freddies, meanwhile, will host Johnstown on Thursday night.