VOLLEYBALL Springfield is pushed to the limit by Ridge Rams
The Tigers hadn't played a five-set match this season.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
MINERAL RIDGE -- The Springfield High volleyball team endured a hot, noisy gymnasium, a raucous crowd and a two-hour match to retain an impressive streak.
Its 19th straight Inter-County League victory.
The two-time defending ICL champions were pushed to the limit Thursday night by host Mineral Ridge before winning 27-25, 23-25, 18-25, 25-16, 15-9.
"It shows me how much they really want the ICL again," Springfield coach Bill Knight said. "They want that three-peat."
Ironically, Springfield's last ICL defeat came against Mineral Ridge two years ago, Knight said. With a strong team this season, the Rams (9-4, 2-2) seemed poised to take advantage once again.
"I don't think there's any pressure on the girls. It becomes matter of fact," Knight said of ICL success. "They're supposed to win it, so that's one of their goals."
But by winning the second and third games Thursday night, Mineral Ridge ensured one thing: Springfield (12-3, 5-0) wasn't going to protect its streak without winning in five games.
The Tigers hadn't even played a five-set match this season.
"So I was a little concerned about stamina," Knight said.
The coach was also concerned about his team's inaccuracy serving the ball and its lack of concentration receiving Mineral Ridge's serves.
"We're such a close team on and off the court that, even when things go bad, we keep each other up," Springfield senior Lindsay Johnson said. "Even if we're not playing our game, we still have the enthusiasm there."
So did Mineral Ridge junior Abbey Kiger, who had 22 kills and 10 blocks and keyed her team in the second and third games.
"Abbey is definitely our go-to player," Mineral Ridge first-year coach Heather Ference said. "She's a passionate player, which I appreciate. She has that drive to win."
After the Rams rallied, Springfield had no choice but to stay a little longer.
"We told each other, 'We're going all night, girls, so get ready to play,' " said Johnson, who had 14 kills and 10 blocks.
Christy Warren added 19 points and four aces for the Tigers, while setter Krista Snyder recorded 29 assists.
In addition to Kiger's impressive performance for Mineral Ridge, Katie Garland had 15 points, five aces and 16 assists; Kaili Gehring had 10 assists and five aces and Rachael Siler had nine kills and eight blocks.
Still, it wasn't enough to stop Springfield -- yet. The teams rematch on Oct. 12 in New Middletown.
"I think this will give us a lot of momentum going into the rest of the season," Johnson said. "To know that we beat these guys, we should be able to go undefeated in the ICL, win the league, and hopefully go further in the tournament than we have in the past."