SPRINGVILLE - Playing in front of a big home crowd for the final time this season, the fifth-ranked Springville volleyball team sorely wanted to give their die-hard fans an impressive class 1A regional semi-final victory Monday, Oct. 26, hosting fellow Tri-Rivers Conference foe Clinton Prince of Peace.
Those fans may have gotten a little more than they had originally bargained for.
“I don’t know exactly what happened, but we seemed to start this match with some nerves that really affected how we played in the first couple of sets,” said Oriole junior Savannah Nealman, as her team was forced to rally for a 29-31, 25-22, 25-22, 25-11 victory that gave their fans some extremely tense moments, but also advanced the Orioles to the region 7 championship match Wednesday, Oct. 28, at Benton Community High School in Van Horne.
“We did not expect Prince of Peace to come out and play like they did, especially after we heard some of their girls were sick and couldn’t play in this match. We were kind of shell-shocked early on, but all we needed to do was settle down and play the kind of volleyball we know we’re capable of playing. It may have taken us a little longer to get there than we had hoped, but eventually we did it.”
Springville (26-4) trailed through most of the opening set before using back-to-back Nia Howard service aces to take a 22-20 lead.
The hosts stretched it to 24-21 and were on the verge of putting the Irish away before the visitors rallied, scoring game-extending points on six different occasions.
A Kennady Breitfelder kill had the Orioles leading 29-28, but Prince of Peace was able to close with an amazing 3-0 run to take the thrilling first set, and leaving Springville fans in stunned silence.
“We weren’t talking or moving our feet,” Nealman said. “We just had to get back to doing what we do, and we were going to be fine. In the second and third sets, we started doing that. Then finished the job in the fourth.”
The Orioles jumped to a 6-2 second-set lead forcing the Irish to call a timeout, but Springville continued to roll taking a 23-15 lead and appeared ready to claim their first triumph of the match.
It wouldn’t be easy.
Prince of Peace rallied once again, closing to within a point of the hosts at 23-22 by going on a 7-0 run before Lily Clark hammered down a kill. The Irish followed with a hitting error to end the set with the 25-22 Oriole triumph.
The third set would see more of the same, tight, tense volleyball as neither team would take more than a four-point lead during the entire stretch.
With the score tied at 21-21, Springville’s Lauren Wilson completely took over slamming down a pair of emphatic kills, the final one to end the third set.
“We finally got things going again like I knew we would,” Nealman said. “We had to have confidence in our own abilities, and we all made plays. Lauren had quite a few big ones.”
Once again, however, early on in the fourth set it appeared the Irish would not go down easy.
Prince of Peace raced to a 6-1 advantage that again had Oriole fans at the edge of their seats, but they had nothing to fear as their team went on an amazing 24-5 run to close the set, and the match.
Wilson was unstoppable coming through with five kills in the final set while Nealman, who tallied 11 kills on the night, came through with three kills and two service aces in the stretch.
Leading 23-11 after yet another Wilson kill, Breitfelder closed things out from the service line with a pair of aces.
“It felt good to be able to get our game back and close that one out,” Nealman said. “Now we have one more to go to get back to the state tournament.”