Times Sports Editor
MARTINSVILLE -- The Northview Knights wrote their own triumphant comeback story in the semifinal of the Martinsville volleyball sectional on Saturday afternoon. The Knights led big in the opening game before rival Terre Haute South roared back to win a deflating 25-22 decision and then took game two by a 25-19 score. With their collective backs against the wall, Northview rallied back to win the final three games in more impressive fashion each game to take a 22-25, 19-25, 25-20, 25-16, 15-5 victory to advance to the Saturday night title game.
Coach Scott McDonald was nearly at a loss for words following his team's dramatic comeback against its biggest rival.
"Oh my God, we had that huge lead in the first game and gave it up and you could see it in the kids' eyes, 'oh no here we go again,' McDonald said. "I have no words to explain what happened. I don't know, maybe it's a team of destiny, who knows? We battled and we passed a lot better. I thought in that first game that we played not to lose to them, not believing that we could beat Terre Haute South in a tournament. Somehow we pulled it off and I have no explanation how."
The hangover carried into the second game as South steadily built on a 14-12 lead at the mid-point and won the game on Northview hitting mistakes to finish on an 11-5 run.
Trailing two games to none in the best of five match, the Knights rallied around each other starting with an opening kill by senior Samantha Solomon, who had five kills and a block in the match.
"Sam (Solomon) is just one of those kids that has so much heart and she's going to give you everything she's got," McDonald said. "All we want our middles to do is get some touches at the net. Brylie (Riddell) is going to get her kills, Kaylee (Clark) and Brittaney (Long) are supposed to carry our offense, but Sam was huge, she had so many touches at the net and she just doesn't quit and that spilled over into the rest (of the team)."
The game remained close as South nibbled at the Knights' lead until the Braves grabbed a 15-14 lead on a double-hit infraction by the Knights. However, Hannah Hayes returned the serve to the Knights with a kill and Ashlen Buck served up an ace, which was followed by a hitting error by the Braves and one of Long's 17 kills. The three-point lead gave the Knights the cushion it needed to get back into the game as Riddell finished the game off with a pair of kills and a block.
The momentum fully swung to the Knights in game four as Ali Sharton got an opening kill followed by an ace by Clark and , a kill by Long and another by Solomon for a quick 7-0 lead for the Knights. Northview stayed out front as Hayes collected two kills and a block to extend the gap to 14-8 after an ace by Riddell.
From there, Riddell and Long each added kills and Buck served out an ace as Northview kept the pressure on the Braves to take a 25-16 win to force a decisive game five.
Game five started much the same as the fourth, with Solomon opening with a kill to keep emotions running high. Long made sure that it stayed that way as she pounded out back-to-back kills followed by one from Riddell. A South hitting error followed and an ace from Clark gave the Knights a quick 6-0 lead.
"Our goal is to try and get up by four (points) heading to 20, McDonald explained. "With our passing and defense we feel like we can side out with anybody and we were able to do that and in the fifth game we came out and just blasted them. I was sitting there talking to Alyssa (Clarke) since she's now an assistant coach for us," McDonald quipped. "I told her that it would be nice to get a six or seven to nothing lead (in the fifth game). (Terre Haute South) had a lot of hitting errors and some service errors that put them in a tough spot."
That tough spot had a lot to do with the Knights play as well as a kill and a block from Solomon, an ace by Sharton put the Knights ahead 11-1 and the game ended with a service error by the Braves as Northview advanced to the finals.
T.H. South 25 25 20 16 5
Northview 22 19 25 25 15
Next game: Northview (26-9 overall) advanced to the sectional final at 7 p.m. on Saturday.