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Fitch defeats Girard in thrilling 5-set match as Rylie Simons sets new career-assist mark

Staff photo / Neel Madhavan The Austintown Fitch volleyball team celebrates after scoring a point during Monday’s matchup against Girard. The Falcons captured a big 5-set victory over the Indians.

AUSTINTOWN — Austintown Fitch had to dig deep on more than one occasion Monday night.

Even though the Falcons captured the first and third sets, Girard just would not go away. Late in the fifth set, the Indians looked as though they might pull off the comeback, but the Falcons were resilient and they pulled out a five-set victory over Girard 3-2 (25-13, 23-25, 25-10, 18-25, 15-12).

“Honestly, I think it came down to our seniors,” Fitch head coach Kylee Herberger said. “Our seniors stepped up big time and we relied on them and their leadership. (With that), they were able to put it away.”

The first set started tight. With it tied 6-6, Fitch went on a 6-0 run to seize control. Serving and ball placement kept Girard off balance, as the Falcons got off to a strong start 25-13.

“I think our ability to extend our serves, and push those runs, helped us out pretty quickly in points,” Herberger said. “We were able to push points from the inside (of the floor) out and limit the number of points they were getting in a row.”

Despite Fitch’s momentum from the first set, the Indians were still able to keep things close in the second. With the set tied 12-12, Girard utilized a 7-2 run to surge ahead. The Falcons weren’t discouraged, however, and responded with an 8-3 run to claw back into it.

Tied 22-all, Girard managed to string together a series of points to take the second set 25-23 and level the match at a set-all.

“We’ve been starting slow, and that’s kind of been our M.O.” said Girard head coach Phil Walters. “I told them, just play through this and get back to where we need to be playing. It was up and down, but it was a great match.”

To start the third set, Fitch shook off the setback and raced ahead to an early 9-3 lead. The Falcons then pieced together a 10-0 run, before finally closing out the third set 25-10 to retake the match lead.

The fourth set started much like the second, as Girard asserted itself and took control. Despite a couple lapses, the Indians were able to close it out 25-18 to force a final, deciding set.

“We’re getting better at playing through those deficits, but we still have work to do,” Walters said. “This is the second five-set match (we’ve played) and we lost both. But both of those matches could have gone either way. I hate to say we’re young, but we have limited experience (in those situations). We’re still trying to figure that out. Fortunately, we’re playing well and we took them to five sets. We didn’t walk out of here after getting beat up in the first set, so I’m happy about that. But we still have a long way to go.”

In the fifth, Girard tried to ride its momentum early on, but Fitch hung around. Despite falling into a 9-5 hole, the Falcons rallied to level things at 9-all. From there, a 6-3 run pushed Fitch across the finish line, as it pulled out the match in the decider 15-12, ending it on a kill by Kylie Folkwein.

“Fitch just pushed themselves more than we pushed ourselves,” Walters said. “We watched too many balls hit the floor, and they came at us aggressively and we didn’t come aggressively at them down the stretch.”

During that fifth and final set, Fitch sophomore Rylie Simons broke the school record for most career assists. She currently sits at 1,432 assists, beating the previous mark set by Stacie Mang (1,431) about 20 years ago.

“It’s just phenomenal for her,” Herberger said. “She hit 1,000 assists earlier in the season and now to have the career mark as a sophomore, you can only imagine how high she’s going to set the bar for whoever comes after. She’s just phenomenal and she works very hard.”

Monday’s match was also the Dig for a Cure Pink Game. Fitch held basket raffles, a 50/50, a bake sale and sold concessions with all proceeds going towards the Hope Center for Cancer Care in the Valley.

nmadhavan@tribtoday.com

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