The Toppers, the No. 11 team in the Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association poll, rallied from two sets down to knock off the No. 6 Christian Academy, 23-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-16, 15-13. It marked the first time this season that Pres rallied from a 0-2 hole.
Pres coach Tom Sawyer pulled his team aside before the third set, urging them to remember earlier in the season when the team put it all together to win the All “A” state tournament. Since losing to Sacred Heart on Sept. 15, the Toppers have rolled off 17 straight wins, usually in dominant fashion. Before Monday’s win, the Toppers (26-4) had only yielded two sets in the last 16 matches.
“I told them to keep believing because they were close sets,” Sawyer said. “We were down two, but it was still anybody’s ball game (in) both of those sets.”
In the next two, Pres would jump out to 3-0 leads only to see the Lady Centurions battle back themselves. CAL would tie the third set three times before the Toppers eventually pulled away. After a Christian Academy net violation gave Pres a 16-15 lead, Lilly Stephenson aced the next serve and Peyton McClinton and Lauren Nunnelley followed with kills to make it a four-point set.
In the fourth set, CAL (24-9) rebounded to take a 9-7 lead, but Pres scored 11 of the next 12 points to essentially put the game away and force the tiebreaker.
Even when her team was up two sets, Christian Academy coach Patty Ernst reminded her team that the Toppers were capable of mounting a comeback.
“They are a very scrappy team as we saw in the first couple sets,” Ernst said. “We started playing a little slower, trying to control more instead of going and getting aggressive.”
The tiebreaker was a back-and-forth affair as neither team had more than a two-point lead at any time. Midway through, Pres led 8-7 and thought it had received a crucial point when Hannah Wilhite’s shot went wide. However, officials ruled that it glanced off a Topper, meaning CAL got the point and the tie.
“We just had to put it behind us and keep playing,” Pres setter Jalen Story said. “We couldn’t let it affect us.”
CAL would lead 13-12 in the final set, but the Toppers would finish the scoring. Savannah Moss served an ace off a Lady Centurion to make it 14-13 Pres, and a net violation on CAL would cap the comeback.
With the district tournament now only a week away, the Toppers can go in not with just a big winning streak but a noteworthy victory over one of the state’s top teams.
“We just knew we had to win this game,” Nunnelley said. “We needed it, knowing they were ranked above us.”