LEWIS CENTER – Big Walnut senior Jen Crenshaw was not fazed as the Olentangy student section screamed to distract mid-serve.
She served up back-to-back aces to cap a five-point rally that turned the match around for the Golden Eagles in a 15-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-23 win at rival Olentangy in girls volleyball non-league play Tuesday night.
“Yeah – it didn’t bother her at all,” BW coach Ron Lehman said. “Jen’s a good role player for us. She went out there and did a great job. She had some good digs for us and really helped us get going.”
Alex Billings scored twice in a three-point span to start the rally with BW down 5-2 early in the second set after falling in a lopsided opening frame.
Billings served up an ace of her own later in the set during a four-point rally that put the Eagles up for good.
“When you play a good team – it might not be your team that changes,” Olentangy coach Travis Weitthoff said. “It might be the other team that wakes up. I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Lehman. He’s been doing it for a long time. Even after the first set – I knew it wasn’t over.
Caroline Speelman paced the Eagles (1-3) with 12 kills, Cassie Bowmar had eight, Olivia Pollack added five and Billings four.
BW is no stranger to slow starts. The Eagles started 1-3 last season and finished 20-5 and won an OCC-Capital title by going undefeated in 10 games.
They started 1-2 the previous year before rallying to an undefeated record in the league on their way to a state final appearance.
“We definitely needed this win to show that we can do it,” Speelman said. “It definitely starts in practice. We work hard in practice and that translates into the game. We have Marysville Thursday and hopefully (this win will) give us confidence going into that game.”
Lehman, while not predicting another deep run in the tournament, was not discouraged by the slow start. His early season schedules usually include the likes of Olentangy Orange, Marengo Highland and Olentangy.
“We’re making progress, but consistency is the hard thing,” he said. “I feel like each time out we’re getting a little bit better. But we’ve got to keep working hard to do that.”
Olentangy got a strong start by Sophie Sparks and Sophia Weithman, who had five kills apiece in the opening set.
“I was very pleased with the way (Sparks and Weithman) played,” Weitthoff said. “They can place it and they hit it hard. They’re just dynamic players and it’s fun to watch. They were just lighting it up in Game 1.”
Senior Madyson Chitty dove to dig out a pair of balls to keep a point alive in the fourth set, which ended with a hit error on the other side. The point started a five-point rally, led by Anna Cecil’s three kills, to give Olentangy (1-3) a 20-15 lead in the final frame.
“(Chitty) is a special player,” Weitthoff said. “You get a little greedy because anything hit (her) way – you expect it to be up. She definitely provides a spark for us.”
But the Eagles rallied for six straight, bookended by a couple of Billings points.
Speelman and Bowmar combined for blocks on back-to-back points to finish off a four-point spurt and the match after Olentangy had rallied to take the lead once again.
“(Olentangy has a) really good defense,” Speelman said. “We just had to keep the ball away from their libero (Chitty) and just be aggressive with the ball.”
Both teams are back in action Thursday night with non-league matchups. BW hosts Marysville while Olentangy travels to Hilliard Davidson. Both are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.