If anything, the third set of the Olentangy Liberty volleyball team’s four-set victory at rival Olentangy Orange served as a reminder that – like baseball – there is no clock.
When the dust settled on Liberty’s 20-25, 25-19, 30-28, 25-20 win, the Patriots remained undefeated with a two-game lead in the OCC-Buckeye with four games to play.
Senior Abby Erickson said she never felt as tired as she did in that third-set marathon.
“That was crazy,” she said. “That’s probably the most tired I’ve ever been in a volleyball game. It’s one of those things where you’ve gotta move on to the next (point). It was just moving so quickly. The game’s not over yet – you’ve gotta play all the way to the end and outlast them.”
Erickson struggled in the early going of the third, sending a couple of shots long and one into the net as Orange built a 9-5 lead, scoring four straight points on Liberty hit-errors.
“I’ll freak out sometimes – obviously it was a big game tonight,” she said. “I can climb into my head sometimes and it gets really stressful. I just have to remind myself that if I miss I have to move on to the next one.”
She turned it around with a couple of big kills down the stretch in the third and finished with 10 overall to go with a team-high four blocks.
Liberty coach Jen Chapman said it wasn’t coaching that got Erickson out of her funk … it was Erickson herself.
“I love Abby – she’s one of those kids that has an engineer brain,” Chapman said. “She overanalyzes everything. She had a lot of energy coming into this game … so the big thing was to get that energy going in the right way. I think once she was settled in and let herself just play, good things started to happen for her.”
Orange got off to a strong start, but not nearly the domination it had in the first set of the teams’ first meeting in Powell Sep. 4 where the Pioneers won 25-12 before dropping the next three sets.
This time around, Orange got a couple of key kills by Taylor Metzler in a 6-1 run that gave the Pioneers control on their way to a first-set win.
The Pioneers opened the second 8-2 before Liberty got going on the block.
“We couldn’t block to save our lives,” Chapman said. “We were sitting ducks on the back row. I finally told our blockers that they have to step up. They don’t have to stuff-block every shot, but they’ve gotta get a touch on the ball.”
The Patriots reeled off 11 straight points, getting a pair of combo-blocks by Claranne Fechter and Taylor Karlo to help swing momentum. Karlo added a couple of kills during the rally as well.
“I think once (we improved on the block) – other stuff started happening as well,” Chapman said. “We started serving more aggressively, we started passing better. So, I feel like our blocking sparked the excitement on our side.”
“Blocking is kind of a mindset, rather than a skill, because it’s four hands against one hand,” Erickson said. “You’ve gotta be there on time and you’ve gotta want it. After we lost that first game – I think we realized that it was all or nothing. So, everybody in the front row just turned that mentality on.”
Fechter had 13 kills and 21 digs to lead Liberty.
Liberty trailed 14-10 midway through the fourth, but outscored Orange 15-6 the rest of the way as the Pioneers were never able to string two points together down the stretch.
Maile Steckelberg had 18 digs and a team-high three aces and Logan Flaugh had 39 assists and 17 digs to lead the Patriots (15-0, 6-0).
“We have gamers on this team,” Chapman said. “I think they get inspired by the challenge. I think they know what accomplishment they can have – we’ve never had a team go undefeated.”
London Davis had 16 kills, Madison Moll had nine kills and five blocks and Carrigan O’Reilly had 30 assists to lead Orange.
“I think that (third set) was a momentum-killer,” Orange coach Katie Duy said. “It’s tough to come back from that.”
Addison Evans had 21 digs and Megan McCollum finished with 20 to lead the Pioneers (12-5, 4-2).
Both teams return to action Tuesday night in league play. Orange travels to Westerville Central while Liberty visits Westerville South.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.