SCHENECTADY — Even before her team completed its long comeback from an 11-point deficit in the fifth set Wednesday night against Mekeel Christian Academy, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons sophomore outside hitter Julia Jaworowski was confident.
She could feel the tide turning.
“I knew we were going to get out of it,” Jaworowski said. “We have a chemistry that no one really has. We just know that we’ve got it.”
In a wild, see-saw Western Athletic Conference girls’ volleyball match, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons dug itself out of an enormous hole in the deciding fifth set.
Down by as many as 11 points, it was Julia Jaworowski’s older sister Victoria who got the Knights off the mat with a run of seven straight service points to turn the tide.
Then, it was the younger Jaworowski sister’s turn to step into the spotlight, delivering 11 of her team-high 24 kills during the deciding set as Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons came away with a thrilling, exhausting 30-28, 22-25, 16-25, 25-16, 26-24 victory.
“We’re all in here screaming,” Julia Jaworowski said. “We’re going to come in tomorrow with no voice.”
Victoria Jaworowski added 32 service points — including five aces — and three blocks for Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons (3-0 WAC, 4-0 overall), while senior setter Kathryn Braun accumulated 31 digs and 28 assists.
“Kathryn, she’s my personal hype man,” Julia Jaworowski said. “She’s there for me, she knows where I want the ball and knows everything about him. When I get a kill, it’s me and Kathryn getting a kill.”
The teams had played a five-setter when they met at Mekeel Christian during the “Fall II” season last spring, and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons coach Bob Verhayden knew another long night was a possibility on Wednesday.
“I was pretty confident we were going to play five again tonight,” Verhayden said.
In a match full of twists and turns, both teams went on extended runs to swing the momentum in their favor.
Following a wild first set, Mekeel Christian (3-1, 4-1) seemed to take control when it stemmed the tide of a Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons run in the second set to even up the match, then moved to the brink of victory with a convincing third-set win.
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons surged in the fourth to force a winner-take-all fifth set, but when Mekeel Christian jumped out to leads of 10-2 and 19-8, it seemed that the Knights may have expended all of their energy simply getting to the fifth.
“I was hoping they were going to find something,” Verhayden said. “It was a game of runs.”
Instead, Victoria Jaworowski’s service run completely changed the complexion of the match, with a fired-up Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons squad responding as Mekeel Christian felt the effects of both the steamy gymnasium and the quirky ceiling that helped cost the Lions a pair of points during the run when seemingly run-of-the-mill passes caromed off a low catwalk.
“It’s part of the home-court advantage here. We always know you’re going to lose three or four points to that catwalk every match,” Mekeel Christian coach Kevin Islip said. “It just takes you out of the game. . . . We’re not used to playing in the heat like this, our girls got a little bit down and you could see they weren’t getting elevated quite the way they need to.”
Mekeel Christian was led by 12 kills from Amelia Armao, nine aces from Rose Seredensky and 31 assists from Chloe Ekstein.
Julia Jaworowski was confident throughout the run, knowing who was at the service line for the Knights.
“I just kept thinking, ‘That’s my sister,’” she said. “That is my amazing sister.”
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons eventually tied the set at 20-20, and while Mekeel Christian twice fended off match point to keep things going, Julia Jaworowski’s 24th and final kill of the night finally punctuated the marathon match.
“If she gets her set, and she’s going downhill,” Verhayden said, “she’s tough to stop.”
Set scores: 30-28, 22-25, 16-25, 25-16, 26-24. Mekeel highlights: Armao, 12 kills; Ekstein, 31 assists; Seredensky, 9 aces. ND-BG highlights: J. Jaworowski, 24 kills; V. Jaworowski, 32 service points, 5 aces, 3 blocks; Braun, 28 assists, 31 digs.