STORY AND PHOTOS BY CHRIS BROOKS, wellsvillesports.com
WELLSVILLE — It was arguably the match of the season, thus far. The bleachers were packed. The noise level was at the highest of levels. The competition was on a completely different level of its own.
Perfect for your typical Sectional-like atmosphere inside the gym, right?
Two of Allegany County’s elites graced the stage inside the Lion’s Den on Friday for their first of two big clashes this season, as the Lady Lions of Wellsville welcomed in a visit from the Bolivar-Richburg Lady Wolverines. On full display, was a full-force, back-and-forth battle from the beginning to the very end of it.
The first three sets were all decided by no more than three points, and then a late surge of resiliency from the Lady Lions would force the almighty fifth and final set of action. Just like the rest of the night had gone leading up to what turned out to be a thrilling ending — it was anyone’s game to take.
Fortunately enough for the Lady Wolverines, they were the ones that managed to pull off a colossal victory behind a big run during the second half of the fifth set, warding off the Lady Lions comeback in the end to secure the bag on a five-set, 26-24, 23-25, 25-22, 17-25, 15-13 victory to take back home on the bus.
(Photo gallery at the end of the story)
“We have been working on staying positive and having tough skin, forgetting about the errors and moving forward,” said Lady Wolverines coach Demi Elliott. “These girls have put in so much hard work over last winter and this past summer, so I’m hoping this will give us a big boost going forward. Wellsville played extremely well tonight, and they fought hard. They have a great setter who ran down almost everything to keep it off the floor. I’m already looking forward to seeing what the next match will bring in Bolivar.”
The first three sets between both Wellsville and Bolivar-Richburg (3-1) were decided by no more than three points, with the first set going into extra serves. It would see a lead no more than five develop for the Lady Wolverines, but even after falling behind, the Lady Lions worked their way back into it with a 15-all tie after some key serves from Maddy Parks fueled the cause. From that point on, back-and-forth points were traded until the extra session was reached, when Bolivar-Richburg garnered that two-point edge to secure the win.
In the second set, near mirror imagery.
Points were exchanged one after another by each team, which would allow the score to draw towards a 9-9 tie at one point. But as soon as the Lady Lions (2-1) were able to grab a lead by as much as four points, the Lady Wolverines were able to cut it right back down again to tie and take the lead, but only for a brief moment.
Wellsville was able to outlast Bolivar-Richburg this time around to tie the match at one after two solid putdowns in front of the net saw them capture the 25-23 narrow edge.
“It was definitely a really exciting game. I was actually incredibly proud of how the girls played tonight. Bolivar is a tough team, and considering we’re a fairly new team after losing four key starters from last year’s group, this was a great test for us and I was happy with the effort.” Lady Lions coach Shannon Steiner said.
In the third set, a chance to deal an unbelievable blow to the Lady Lions. With the largest lead of the night coming within the first few serves for the Lady Lions, Bolivar-Richburg showed a tremendous display of resilience and poise to rally back from being down 9-3, scoring 13 of the next 20 points to tie the game at 16. The momentum would allow the Lady Wolverines to claim the reward that it brought — a third-set rebounding victory to push Wellsville to the brink by a 25-22 count.
“They played extremely well as a team tonight, and never dropped their heads down even when they fell behind in the third set,” Elliott said. “They persevered in the end, and came back to win, which was absolutely amazing. They know how to pick each other up in moments like this, and do their jobs that they are set to do. They played extremely smart volleyball, and smart volleyball not only includes the big hits, but finding the holes on the other side.”
While the Lady Wolverines showcased some resiliency, the Lady Lions would offer the same in the fourth said to avoid the knockout punch. After an early lead was garnered by the visitors, they would go on to respond with an unanswered rally of seven straight points to take the lead away, before both teams were able to work their way towards yet another deadlock in the middle of the set. But ultimately, a strong finish by Wellsville would push the action into the fifth decisive set after a dominant 10-2 run closed it out.
“I think they got fired up when Lindsey (Stuck) made an incredible save off the net to keep the ball in play. They took that energy and they ran with it to finish the fourth set the way that they did,” said Steiner. “The girls were definitely tired going into the last set. They worked as hard as they possibly could, but we just couldn’t find the last bit of energy they had ending the fourth.”
Both teams would give it their all one last time to close out the night, as the back-and-forth pace settled in for the first half of the final set — one that would see the Lady Wolverines work their way into the lead before swapping positions on the court. After doing so, they would pick up right where they left off by scoring eight of the next 10 points to push Wellsville towards match point.
Despite it, the Lady Lions gave it all they had left in the tank to stay in the game, closing the gap to a pair of points. But the Lady Wolverines would find a way to hang on for dear life and secure the massive road win in the Lion’s Den by a 15-12 count.
Leading the Lady Wolverines on the stat sheet was Carmen Crowley on the attack, as she collected a game-high 13 kills to pair with six aces. Brena Walp (11 kills, four aces) and Haley Mascho both led herculean efforts on defense to further the team’s cause, each garnering a whopping 31 digs, while setter Willow Worth handed out 32 assists.
On the other side for the Lady Lions, Lindsey Stuck led all scorers with a team-high six kills to pair with five digs and two aces. Bryanna Moultrup (two digs) and Emma Dunaway (two aces) both continued to fuel the offense behind Stuck with four kills of their own.
Both teams are back on the court after the weekend, as Bolivar-Richburg continues their road swing on Tuesday with a 6 p.m. visit to Houghton Academy, while Wellsville looks to rebound on Monday over the road themselves in a 7 p.m. first serve at Arkport/Canaseraga.
Fillmore 2, Genesee Valley/Belfast 0
FILLMORE — With five straight wins for both Fillmore and Genesee Valley/Belfast from Wednesday night now in the rearview mirror, a battle of unbeatens was on the horizon. That day would arrive on Friday, as two of the best to start their season on some of the hottest footnotes collided in Fillmore.
Something had to give way.
Through the first 40 minutes in front of a packed crowd on the turf, there was no score to settle. The defenses were at their best. But it was time to hit the reset button for the second half, and like the Lady Eagles have done all season long — they know how to start things off at a high rate of speed.
The call was answered by the hosts in green just two minutes into the last 40 minute session, and it was answered by a familiar tandem that has begun to take Section V by storm — Hope and Grace Russell, as the junior starlets each grabbed a goal in the first 10 minutes of play to give Fillmore all the room they needed to hold Genesee Valley/Belfast down on defense to secure a sixth straight win while giving them their first loss in one swing, taking the 2-0 blank.
“Tonight was a night we needed every aspect of our game to contribute, and that happened,” said Lady Eagles coach Jon Beardsley. “Two undefeated teams and a great Friday night atmosphere by the few hundred fans who came out to support the two teams, did not disappoint. We did some impressive things. Our defense was up to the challenge, and they really set the tone for us. Offensively, it was a matter of sticking with it, working together and varying our approach. I thought we got better as the game went on, and we answered some questions we had about our resiliency.”
Both squads ran rampant all across the midfield throughout the first half of play, as Fillmore (6-0) and Genesee Valley/Belfast kept the action at a bare minimum while setting the dinner table for a defensive battle.
Time would wind down towards a scoreless tie through the middle of the war, but when play resumed, it was a completely different ballgame. The Lady Eagles have been known to start fast, and to kick off the second half, they would do just that with the help of Grace Russell, who found the back of the Genesee Valley/Belfast (5-1) net first off a Hope Russell feed two minutes in to break the ice.
The momentum would continue leaning towards Fillmore’s way as more time came off the clock. With it, another quick response in the first 10 minutes with Hope Russell ultimately putting a wrap on the scoring with a big goal off a Rachel Hatch pass to give them a crucial 2-0 lead to control for the remainder of the game.
From that point on, the Lady Eagles would look to their defense to seal the deal, doing as such to collect their sixth win in a row. In the end, the defense would allow just four shots to reach Preslee Miller in goal — all of which were stopped to record the biggest shutout of the season thus far, while in turn, the offense produced 24 shots against Genesee Valley/Belfast.
In net on the other end was Ashley Burrows, who set aside 10 of those shots herself.
Bolivar-Richburg 3, Andover/Whitesville 1
BOLIVAR — While the premier County showdown took center stage in Fillmore on a quiet Friday night for soccer, Bolivar-Richburg and Andover/Whitesville closed the book on their two-game set in a week’s span at Dunsmore-Latimer Field. Last Friday, it was a game in Whitesville that the Lady Wolverines wound up controlling in the second half to work towards the eventual 3-1 win.
Fast forward seven days later, and history had a way of repeating itself again.
It was all tied up at one on each side going into the first half break. But just like before, the second half was Bolivar-Richburg’s best friend. McKinlee Harris was responsible for both of the team’s scores that would find them seated in the command chair, as they went past Andover/Whitesville to record the season sweep by another 3-1 count.
The scoring began near midway in the opening half after both teams engaged in an early midfield battle, as Madigan Harris struck first for the Lady Wolverines (3-3) after being served a ball from McKinlee Harris over top of the Andover/Whitesville defense right near the top of the 18. She would then ward off the defense, dig the ball free and bury it home to the lower portion of the net to crack open the scoring.
The lead would not last much longer though, as Andover/Whitesville (0-5-1) would find their way onto the board with 7:20 left in the half, as Gabby Terhune capitalized on a Bolivar-Richburg clear by sending the ball back into the offensive zone. The ball was then stopped by the body of Alexys Palmatier parked out front of the goal, where she settled it and knocked it in dead center to tie the game going into the break.
When the second half arrived, McKinlee Harris would then take over.
The Lady Wolverines senior would not be denied her shot at the net, as she posted two big goals — her first coming nearly 10 minutes in, connecting with a pass straight up the middle from Madigan Harris at midfield, outrunning the Andover/Whitesville defense on the way in to give the hosts in black and red the lead back.
Insurance would come near midway, as Cassidy Stives then dished along another pass right up Main Street to Harris. With possession on the way in, no hesitation would follow after, as Harris recorded a big piece of insurance with her second of the game to extend Bolivar-Richburg’s lead to a pair, ultimately for good to seal the victory.
After it was all said and done, Bolivar-Richburg would go on to outshoot Andover/Whitesville narrowly, taking the 8-7 advantage. In goal, Kyla Gayton was awarded the win behind four saves, while Olivia Waters made four saves herself on the other end for the visitors in white and black.