SCOTIA — You couldn’t tell, but Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons girls’ volleyball coach Bob Verhayden was feeling a bit nervous at the tail end of the second set at Mekeel Christian Academy Tuesday night.
“We dodged a bullet,” Verhayden said after his team got past the Lions in an extremely competitive five-setter. “If they win that second game … Let’s just say it’s hard to win three in a row.”
The Golden Knights edged the Lions in the second set 27-25 to pull even, and used a key 7-0 run in the fifth set to take that one 25-16 and wrap up the Western Athletic Conference match.
“They’re a strong team, and they never stopped with their energy,” Bishop Gibbons junior setter Kathryn Braun said of the Lions. “We had to match that.”
Mekeel won the first set 25-18 before Bishop Gibbons rallied from a 25-24 deficit to nail down the second. Julia Jaworowski tied the set at 25 with one of her team-leading 13 kills for the Golden Knights, and two balls found the net after that.
“If they take the second one, you’re talking to him more than me,” Verhayden said as he pointed toward Mekeel coach Kevin Islip.
“It was a relief,” Braun said of evening up the match.
Mekeel had rebounded from a 24-21 deficit in that second set to go up by a point before it got away.
“It was big,” Islip said of the second set’s end. “What I don’t want is for them to play it safe, and they didn’t. I want them attacking.”
Bishop Gibbons (8-1 league and overall) won the third set 25-16, and Mekeel (5-3, 6-3), with a lineup absent of any seniors, won the fourth 25-21.
“It’s scary,” Verhayden said of the Lions’ potential. “His [Islip] program is in good shape. They took some lumps [in the 2019 season], and now they are starting to really come on.”
Aside from Bishop Gibbons twice, Mekeel has lost only to Schoharie. Schoharie is also the team that dealt Bishop Gibbons its only setback.
“We’ve got to get on the consistency side,” Islip said. “We’ll make a great play, and then not make such a great play the next time. It’s a repetition thing. The sky is the limit for them.”
The Golden Knights had swept the Lions earlier in the “Fall II” season as a prelude to the back-and-forth rematch.
“We beat them 3-0 at our place,” Verhayden said. “I knew it would be a lot tougher coming here.”
Bishop Gibbons held a 7-6 lead in the fifth set before extending it with a 7-0 run that included two aces by Juliana Tortello and two kills by Victoria Jaworowski. Mekeel answered with a kill by Amelia Armao and a kill and an ace by Rose Seredensky, but the Golden Knights were able to keep the Lions at bay in what was their eighth consecutive victory since the five-set loss to Schoharie.
“We work together, and we want it so bad,” Braun said. “We have perseverance. When we’re up or down, we keep pushing. We never give up.”
Mekeel goes by the same motto.
“Even after today, they’ll be ready to fight again,” Islip said. “There’s no quit in them. It makes for long nights, but is also makes for fun games.”
Braun piled up 35 assists, Marissa Correra led the Golden Knights with 27 defensive digs and Victoria Jaworowski finished with nine kills including one that ended the third set.
Seredensky had 17 kills with two in a 6-1 run to close out the first set. Armao had nine kills, and Chloe Ekstein’s strong effort for Mekeel included 22 assists and 14 service points with five aces.
Set scores: 18-25, 27-25, 25-16, 21-25, 25-16. Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons highlights: Braun 35 assists; M. Correra 27 digs; J. Jaworowski 13 kills; V. Jaworowski 9 kills. Mekeel highlights: Ekstein 22 assists. 14 service points, 5 aces; Seredensky 17 kills; Armao 9 kills.