The Olentangy Liberty girls volleyball team used a 14-2 run in the fourth set to get momentum and followed with a 5-1 start in the fifth to keep it in a marathon win over rival Olentangy Orange Tuesday night in Powell.
The Patriots won 18-25, 25-21, 20-25, 25-16, 15-11 to move into a first-place tie with Orange for the OCC-Buckeye title.
“I was a little nervous after the first set,” senior Maddie Fogg said. “Typically, we lose the first set – I don’t know what it is about us. As soon as we got to the second set, I wasn’t worried. We had the momentum leaving the fourth.”
Liberty, which hasn’t lost since the Pioneers won in straight sets earlier this month in Lewis Center, got strong play on the block in the final two frames.
“They put a little reality check on our girls,” Patriots coach Jen Chapman said. “I think we were kind of floating … and had the door shut in our face when we went over to Orange.”
Fogg had six blocks for the game and Abby Erickson finished with three to lead the Patriots (15-1, 5-1).
“We can still get better at it – we had a bunch of errors,” Chapman said. “But, it was much better than the first time. We were able to slow their hitters down … and I thought we were able to take them out of system more.”
The game featured two Division-I college commits, who are both setters. Orange’s Carrigan O’Reilly, a junior who is committed to Xavier University, finished with 49 assists and Fogg of Liberty, who is committed to play at the University of Toledo next fall, finished with 40 assists.
“We have some really good setters in our area,” Chapman said. “You’ve got two kids that are probably continuing on in Division I with their careers in volleyball – setting and leading their teams. It’s fun to watch on both sides.”
Heather Littlejohn and Grace Clark finished with 11 kills apiece, Claranne Fechter had 23 digs and Maile Steckelberg had 19 service points, including an ace to lead the Patriots.
“I think we’ve really been pushing in practice to work on our serve receive and our first-block kills – that’s what we’ve emphasized. That really showed tonight,” Fogg said. “We came out, our passes were there, I wasn’t running all over the place and we were able to run offense and they weren’t able to keep up with us.”
Orange coach Katie Duy admitted it was a difficult loss because of what it means in the title race, but vowed her team would learn from it and turn it into a positive.
“We’re still in control of our path in the conference, so I think losses are good as long as you learn from them,” she said. “We plan on getting back in the gym and working harder and working on overcoming our mistakes.”
London Davis led with 14 kills, Taylor Metzler had 10, Megan McCollum had 28 digs, Sidney Gossard had five blocks and Addie Evans and Sophie Dahn had two aces apiece to lead the Pioneers (13-3, 5-1).
Duy highlighted the play of Madison Moll, who finished with 12 kills.
“She had a couple of big momentum kills on the outside and, for being a sophomore, she showed a lot of maturity,” Duy said. “That was big for her.”
Both teams continue league play Thursday. Liberty visits Westerville South and Orange hosts Westerville Central.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.