FREDERICKTOWN — It took a couple of games for the East Knox High School varsity volleyball team to get going Thursday night, but when it did, the Bulldogs could not be stopped.
Facing the host Fredericktown Freddies, East Knox dropped Games 1 and 2, 25-17 and 25-19, but rallied with three straight wins, 25-20, 25-19 and 15-11, to clinch a share of the Mid-Buckeye Conference title. The Bulldogs (17-2, 12-0 MBC) lead Fredericktown (16-4, 10-2) by two games with two games to play.
“I always tell them, ‘What you give is what you get. You have to give it or you are not going to get it,’ and coming our in Game 3, the question was, ‘Are we going to share the title or are we going to own it?’ We really came out and worked hard to own it,” said East Knox coach Brooke Doup. “I just told them it was now or never, and they weren’t going to get this chance again.”
“I was happy with the way we started, but that’s the thing. You’ve got to win three,” said Fredericktown coach Marilyn Rutherford. “Give credit to East Knox for hanging in there and coming back to win the last three games.”
Both teams came to play on Thursday night, and it was evident in the way the games went. One team would take a small lead and then the other answered. In Game 1, Fredericktown jumped ahead early only to see East Knox take the lead. It wasn’t until an 11-2 run midway through the second rotation that the Freddies gained any real advantage. The run pushed the lead to five, 20-15, which is where it stayed before Fredericktown scored the final three points to take the 25-17 win.
East Knox reversed its role in Game 2 and held a 5-1 advantage before the Freddies went on a 9-2 run. From there, the teams traded serves with the lead bouncing between two and five points. It wasn’t until the Bulldogs, with Emily Wells serving, ripped off five straight points that the game was tied at 19 and Fredericktown called a timeout. Coming out of the break, the Freddies turned the tide on the Bulldogs and took advantage of a few East Knox errors to take the 25-19 victory.
“We always start out really slow, and we started out slow, a little slower than I would have liked,” Doup said. “Game 1 I was OK with. Game 2 was a little scary because they were finding our holes. They were tipping and we weren’t adjusting to that.”
Up by two games, all Fredericktown had to do was win once more and a share of the MBC title was within their grasp. That, however, proved too difficult.
“They started playing good volleyball, consistent volleyball,” said Rutherford of East Knox’s resurgence. “I thought our offense shut down a little, which hurt our aggressive play.”
The Freddies took an early 7-3 lead in Game 3, but the Bulldogs managed to tie the game at 9 and continue a 10-1 run to go ahead, 16-10. A tip by Fredericktown’s Courtney Briegel gave the ball back to the Freddies at that point, and Fredericktown managed to cut the deficit to three. East Knox, however, was giving up and continued to battle volley for volley. The result was a 25-20 Bulldog win and a fourth game.
East Knox continued where it left off in Game 3, and blitzed the Freddies with a 10-3 start, including the first six points in a row. Fredericktown managed to break the Bulldogs’ serve, but could never cut into the lead. A volley and serve by East Knox’s Lindsey VanHoose made it 15-8, but the Freddies weren’t done. They went on a 6-2 spurt to cut the lead to three, forcing an East Knox timeout. The Bulldogs then responded by taking three of the next four points to push their lead back to five before Fredericktown took three back. East Knox then closed out the game by scoring five of the next six points, 25-19.
“We were hitting at them and they were making errors, so I told then to just keep hitting it at them,” said Doup. “We adjusted well. We saw that the holes were there and we went after them.”
Both teams faced a winner-take-all Game 5 and neither wanted to lose. Fredericktown took an early 5-2 lead before the Bulldogs went ahead, 6-5. The Freddies then tied the match up at 6 only to watch East Knox move ahead by four. A pair of aces off serves by Lyndsay Briegel helped Fredericktown tie the game at 10 before East Knox took a timeout.
“We were trying to break their momentum,” said Rutherford. “In the fifth game, it was anybody’s match. I think the girls were confident, but it is a game of errors and you try to make fewer errors than your opponent. We couldn’t do that tonight.”
The Bulldogs responded out of the time out by finishing off the Freddies. Sierra Mazzaro posted three kills as East Knox scored five of the last six points to take the match, 15-11.
“This is huge,” said Doup. “This is what we’ve worked all season for. We knew coming in tonight that is we wanted to take the title, we would have to work hard.”
VanHoose did it all for East Knox with 13 points, 35 assists, 15 digs, four kills and three blocks. Tessa Simmons added 17 digs and 13 kills; Emily Morris finished with six points, five digs, six kills and six blocks; and Emily Wells had 10 points, 21 digs, two kills and four blocks. Morgan Durfee added 12 digs, six kills and seven blocks; Allison Henthorn scored eight points and had 13 digs; Mazzaro finished with four points, 35 digs, 13 kills and three blocks; and Hayley Gray had 17 points and 15 digs.Courtney Briegel led Fredericktown with 10 kills, 17 digs, one block and 15 points. Kate Newkirk had 17 kills, five digs, eight blocks and five points; Danielle Goeppinger added 34 assists, eight digs, one kill and 16 points; and Lyndsay Briegel had nine kills, two blocks, 13 digs and four points. Devan Kennedy added three kills, three blocks and 10 points; Adrienne Robbins finished with two kills, two digs and five points; and Lauren Snyder had three digs.
In junior varsity action, Fredericktown picked up the win over East Knox in three games, 21-25, 25-23, 25-17. Lisa Earnest led Fredericktown with 11 points. Brittany Jones added eight points, and Rachel Goeppinger scored five points.
Both teams have the weekend off before getting back into conference play on Tuesday. Fredericktown travels to Johnstown while East Knox hosts Centerburg.