Story and Photo by Matthew Yoder
Down two sets to one and facing a raucous crowd headed into the fourth, Nandua rallied to win the final two sets and secure a well-fought victory against Arcadia Tuesday night.
Both teams came out very aggressively in the first set, aiming for every opportunity at the net to gain an advantage over the opponent. Abigail Killmon and Lyric Sampson were particularly up to the challenge for the Warriors, delivering forcefully on spike attempts and defending their own net against the Firebirds’ attack.
The Press sisters responded with spikes for Arcadia midway through the set but Nandua’s balance began to help them pull away in the opening frame. An ace by Jamie Wert and back-to-back blocks by Sampson drove the Warriors lead to 18-11, and from there spikes late in the set by Wert and Madison Holloway gave them an early lead.
The depth Nandua employed in the first set and throughout the night was an asset their coaches were thankful to have.
“We have been able to use options throughout the season, it’s nice to switch them in and out,” said coach Le’Andra Metzger.
Depth chart aside, Arcadia responded well in the second set. The play was a bit more timid and sloppy to start the set but quickly regained the energy that was established to open the match. The same players brought equal intensity as the set played out. Killmon made a miraculous save from the rafters to prolong a point for Nandua, and she continued to play smart at the net with Sampson. Emani Press delivered a spirited spike for Arcadia and Julia Rehbein dropped in a well-placed serve to give Arcadia a 16-12 lead and force a Nandua
The Warriors would again call a timeout several points later. Coach Nathan Metzger said discussion in the timeouts focused on “minimizing mistakes”.
Out of this second timeout, Nandua was on the losing side of an inches game, yielding three consecutive points that just went beyond Arcadia’s line. Haley McDaniel dropped to the court on two spike attempts from the Warriors, preserving the points that were needed to tie the match for the Firebirds.
Tense, tired play defined the action to open the third set, but the teams again recovered for a tight back and forth affair. Rehbein hugged the line with a spike for the Firebirds and Killmon responded immediately for the Warriors. Imani Press bettered Sampson at the net, and her sister again brought the intensity this set for Arcadia. They built a 23-17 lead on her serve and held on to win with another spike from Rehbein.
Arcadia entered the fourth set with undeniable crowd support. Their enthusiasm was electric, but Nandua did its best to remain focused. Killmon was particularly composed for the Warriors in the fourth set. She made great saves and along with Sampson commanded the net against a late Arcadia rally. As the points got tighter, Nandua charged ahead and ended with an ace by Wert, forcing a deciding set.
As the crowds’ energy and the temperature of the gym began to rise,
Nandua seemed to play their best.
“We were afraid of the crowd, but the girls did a great job zoning
them out,” Metzger said. “They kept their foot on the pedal.”
That pedal and the fate of the fifth set was steered early by the play of Sampson. She had two spikes and a block, and after another spike by Killmon, Nandua built a 5-1 lead. The Press sisters responded with punishing blows to help their team get back into the set, but Sampson was just too much. She delivered on a spike out of a timeout, and the Warriors lead climbed on an ace by Necole Stravino. Carol Hope Greer gave the Warriors a powerful push off the bench and summed up a theme of depth that played out as the match proceeded. Nandua won the fifth set 15-11, but both teams contributed to a highly entertaining match.
Sampson spoke of her team’s readiness to engage the crowd and have fresh legs for a marathon match.
“We put in the work, we always find a way to pick it up the end,” said Sampson.
She believed in her team’s ability to quiet the crowd.
“I think the turning point was when we got one great hit, we were able to silence their energy, and then our energy picks up,” Sampson said.
Arcadia coach Anna Williams is a positive figure and an eternal optimist and she was encouraged by her team’s play.
“They played well,” Williams said.
“All I ask is they set the tone, they need to do their jobs, they will get it together.”