Down two sets to none and facing a pair of match points, the Delone Catholic volleyball team looked destined to face a season sweep at the hands of Littlestown.
The Squirettes, however, did not go gentle into the good night.
Instead, they rallied, fighting off those match points to steal the third set before taking home the fourth, and then the fifth to claim a come from behind five-set victory over the Thunderbolts: 20-25, 22-25, 26-24, 25-21, 15-11.
“We just kept battling,” first-year Delone coach Nate Staub said afterward. “Littlestown is a tough matchup for us. Their size gets to us in the front row and when they’re in system, they’re tough. I just kept trying to tell our girls to stay the course and to hang close enough so that at the end of the match, if we go on a little run we win. Then stealing set three, that changed everything.”
Littlestown (7-4 overall, 6-2 in YAIAA Division 3) entered the contest third in the PIAA District 3-2A power rankings, while the Delone (10-4, 7-2) came in just behind in third.
In the early going it was the visiting Squirettes, who came in riding a seven-match win streak, who looked the stronger of the two sides. Thanks to powerful hitting from Makenna Mummert, who led the visitors with 13 kills on the night, Delone got out to an early 15-9 lead in set one.
That’s when the Thunderbolts hit their stride, ripping off six straight points on the serve of Carli Thayer to tie the match. The Bolts closed set one on a 16-5 run to win it, capped by a Jaylin Smith spike.
The second set told a different story, as Littlestown got out to a 10-6 lead, forcing Staub to take a timeout. Delone then ripped off a 5-1 run to tie the match at 11-11 and the two sides went back and forth before kills from Maddie Dunbar and Makayla Orwig gave the Bolts separation at 20-16. The duo combined for 24 kills on the night.
The Squirettes dug in, tying the set at 21-21 after an Emma Anderson ace, but it was again Smith who ended the set, this time with a pair of aces to take it 25-22.
“We watch the defense, try to find the holes and we try to put the ball there,” Littlestown coach Steve Staub said of his team’s hitting. “They were doing a good job of that in the first two sets.”
Early in the third set, it looked as if the Bolts may have broken the resolve of the visitors as Orwig’s kill mid-way through the set got through the Delone block to make it 11-6 and force a Nate Staub timeout. Out of that timeout, the Squirettes clawed back to within one at 14-13 after a Mummert roller and later tied the set at 19-19 after an Orwig miss. But Orwig was not deterred and drilled one home on the next point to make it 20-19. Moments later, Littlestown led 24-22 and had a pair of match points.
That’s when momentum swung.
A pair of errors tied the set at 24-24 with Delone back on serve. On the ensuing point, a net violation made it 25-24 Squirettes, giving them set point. They didn’t let it go to waste as Olivia Snyder’s serve fell just in bounds to get the set, and the momentum, to the visitors.
“It’s nothing they did and it’s not necessarily anything we did. At the end of the day it’s just the way that it went,” Steve Staub said of the missed opportunity.
Delone took that momentum and turned it into an early 4-1 lead in the fourth set, but shortly thereafter Kylah Green tied the set at nine with a roll shot and the Bolts then took an 11-10 lead three points later on an illegal hit by the Squirettes. The pair went back and forth throughout the middle of the set, but Littlestown errors helped Delone claw ahead to a 21-17 lead before Squirettes freshman Denae Bello made it 22-17 on a kill. Delone had 24-18 before three straight from the Bolts, but a net violation closed it out and sent us to a fifth and decisive set.
“The conversation throughout the first three sets was ‘we just have to hang on’ and once we got that first set it was like ‘okay, we can breathe now,’” Nate Staub said of difference between the first three sets and the fourth.
The final set went as the previous four did, as the two sides fought tooth and nail. Littlestown burst out to a 3-0 lead behind the serve of Carli Thayer and later pushed the lead to 6-2 thanks to another Orwig kill. The Bolts kept the Squirettes at arm’s length for much of the set, leading 9-6 mid-way through. But that’s when the tides shifted.
Bello hammered another one of her eight kills home to make it 9-7, then a pair of Littlestown errors tied the set at 9-9. Green notched a kill to make it 10-9 Littlestown before the teams exchanged to points to put the hosts up 11-10. From then on, it was all Delone.
A Mummert kill tied the set at 11-11 before Dunbar found the net twice to put the Squirettes up 13-11, forcing a Littlestown timeout. Out of the timeout, it was Bello on serve and the freshman deliver, putting home two-straight aces to give Delone the set, the match and the comeback.
“I like it,” Bello said of the pressure. “I like being able to know that I’m confident enough to make that serve. And even though I can miss it, I like knowing that I can make it too and that’s a big part of where the confidence comes from.”
The win jumps Delone to No. 2 in the district power rankings with Littlestown dropping to No. 4 and division rival York Catholic splitting the pair.
The Bolts will be back on their home floor on Monday against Dover before travelling to York Catholic on Tuesday. The Squirettes, looking to remain red hot, will return home Tuesday and play host to No. 7 Bermudian Springs, which currently sits one spot out of the district playoffs.
Clay Sauertieg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org