Elizabethtown volleyball fought off a Dallastown comeback attempt to defeat the Wildcats 3-1 (25-22, 25-23, 26-28, 27-25) in the first round of the District Three Class AAAA championship on Saturday, Oct. 28.
The Bears were able to take control of the first set by winning eight of 11 points in the middle of the set. The run was kick-started with libero Rebecca Epps (team-high 22 digs) serving for Elizabethtown.
Setter Julia Rathsam (who had a team-high six aces, three blocks and 34 assists) served to open the second set and staked Elizabethtown to a 4-0 lead that eventually ballooned to a 10-4 lead. Dallastown responded with eight consecutive points to take a 12-10 led before coach Dave Pittman called for a timeout.
The timeout stemmed the tide as Elizabethtown rebounded to tie the set at 17-17. The Bears and the Wildcats saw the set progress to 24-23, but a bump from middle/outside hitter Katrielle Hoffman won the set for Elizabethtown.
“I thought we picked our passing up. We didn’t start well. I had to make some substitutions and that seemed to work out well for us. I don’t think we were aggressive in our base defense as much as we normally are,” Pittman said.
Elizabethtown’s 2-0 lead was in part because of their ability to set both the front and back line, with outside hitter Taylor Beeler leading the back line. She finished the match with a team-high 16 kills.
“That’s what we worked on. We worked on that over this past week. We haven’t been getting our back row in our attack. We probably ran it a little too much. When you run it, the other girls aren’t in rhythm as much,” Pittman said.
The 2-0 lead over Dallastown was not unfamiliar territory for either side. In their previous matchup this season, Elizabethtown held a 2-0 lead before ultimately losing 3-2.
Elizabethtown held a 20-13 in the third set before Dallastown rattled off six points to cut the Bears lead to 20-19. The run, keyed by a pair of blocks, gave the Wildcats enough momentum to finish off the set 28-26. Dallastown fought off six match points in the rally as well.
Pittman said that he had “no idea” what happened to allow Dallastown to come back in the third set.
“They knew from when we played them last time that they could come back. They were down two sets and we were up big. I think it was 20-14 or something like that. I told them, ‘You better go finish. You gotta finish.’ So maybe I put too much pressure on them,” Pittman said.
Despite the collapse in the third set, Elizabethtown rebounded well in the fourth set. The Bears led 8-3 before the set was tied 16-16. From that point, Elizabethtown won five of the next seven points to lead the fourth set 21-18 and won the set 27-25.
Pittman and the Bears went into the match with their attention on Dallastown’s two big hitters, but they weren’t able to make the adjustments that Pittman was hoping to see.
“Their middle killed us. Their big middle really hurt us. We couldn’t match up with her and we probably should’ve rotated Bri [Eberly] on her earlier and I didn’t. If we went to a fifth set we probably would have changed the lineup to put Bri on her, but we beat a good team. We beat a really good team,” Pittman said.
The victory advanced Elizabethtown to the quarterfinals of the District Three tournament where they took on the No. 3 Central York Panthers at Hempfield High School on Tuesday, Oct. 31.
The Bears staked themselves to an early 6-3 lead that developed into a 10-5 lead before Central York took the first timeout of the match. After the timeout, Elizabethtown won three of the next four points to cap a 7-2 run. When the Bears led 18-11, Central York took another timeout, but Elizabethtown won four of the next five points before eventually winning 25-16.
“I figured their coach, he’s pretty crafty, would make some changes and he did,” Pittman said.
Central York responded by winning the first five points of the second set before leading Elizabethtown 8-2. The Bears began to claw themselves back into the match with a 5-0 run that was sparked with a block from Montana Sauder. Elizabethtown eventually pulled within one point at 21-20, but the Panthers won four of the final six points to tie the match at 1-1.
“We made changes in the second set and we didn’t get out to a good start, but we fought hard to get back. Probably should have come back and won that set,” Pittman said.
Central York did not trail at any stage of the second set and that streak continued into the third set as well. The two teams were tied 18-18 before the Panthers won the next three points to take a 21-18 lead. Grace Murray was able to halt the brief run when she saved a block from the Panthers and Elizabethtown was able to save the point.
Elizabethtown was trailing 24-23 with Marley Kreiser serving for the Bears, but an unforced error into the net swayed the set in the favor of Central York.
The fourth set followed the same trend as the previous two as neither team was able to create meaningful separation from the other. The two were tied 9-9 before Elizabethtown went on a 13-3 run that spanned two timeouts from Central York. Behind the strength of that run, Elizabethtown won the set 25-15 and forced a decisive fifth set.
Rathsam had the opening serve and earned Elizabethtown a 3-0 lead before Central York tied the set at 8-8. The next point went in Elizabethtown’s favor, but it was the final point that the Bears would win during the 2017 season. Central York rattled off seven consecutive points to win the set 15-9 and the match 3-2 (16-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-25, 15-9).
Facing a 2-1 deficit heading into the fourth set, Pittman said that he and the team went to something that they had not ran all season.
“We kinda tried that again in the fifth. We just made some silly plays down towards the end and it’s just tough,” Pittman said.
The “something” Pittman referred to is a stronger middle in an effort to change the attack on the Panthers.
“I don’t know why we didn’t set them more. I would have set them all night long, but we just didn’t have enough weapons tonight.”