Tara Riley had so many shining moments at the net during Schenectady’s marathon Big 10 volleyball match with Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons Wednesday.
In a somewhat ironic twist, the senior middle hitter ended the fray from the service line.
“When I was going for the serve, I didn’t want to let my team down,” Riley said after the match that spilled well beyond two hours. “You’ve got to play what spot you’re at.”
Riley pounded down a kill and then served for the final three points as the the Lady Patriots regrouped for a 26-24 fifth-set win, and dealt the Lady Knights only their second league defeat at the Pat Riley Sports Center.
Schenectady took the first two sets, 25-23,
25-21, and Bishop Gibbons grabbed the next two, 25-15, 25-18, before the teams traded comebacks in the last.
“Momentum shifted to us in game three and four, and we had it in game five for a while there,” said Bishop Gibbons coach Bob Verhayden. “Give Schenectady credit. They never gave up.”
Schenectady let a 20-14 fifth-set lead turn into a 24-22 deficit before notching the victory
behind Riley’s closing effort and gaining a
season split with Bishop Gibbons.
“She’s an absolute all-around player,” Schenectady coach Danielle Madia said. “On the front row, she gives us kills and blocks, and she’s not afraid to get down and dig the ball.”
Riley can serve some, too, and displayed that skill after her 19th kill pulled Schenectady within 24-23. Riley followed with a tying ace, and then served to start a sequence that ended when Sarah Del Vecchio’s kill attempt sailed just out of bounds.
Riley’s next serve was a hard line drive and deflected off Caroline Bouchard’s wrists and out of bounds to end the superb match.
“We were down, attitude-wise, after they won the two games, but you don’t give up. We
decided to push through it,” Riley said. “Our motto is ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears,’ and we left it all on the floor.”
Schenectady (7-3 league, 8-4 overall) went on its best run of the match earlier in the fifth set, rattling off 10 straight points to go up,
20-14. Kaylie DelGiacco served two aces in the spurt, and Tanaia Madley had a kill and a dink.
“We played as a team, like a family. We won it together,” said Riley. “We talked. In the games we lost, there was no ball calling. We spoke up.”
“They play a phenomenal game when they talk and play their positions,” said Madia. “They shut down in the third and fourth games and pulled it back in the fifth game.
“That’s one thing about this group. They
always fight,” she added. “They never give up until the final point.”
The Lady Knights displayed their mettle in the fifth set with an 8-1 run that left them with a 24-22
advantage. Bouchard had three aces in the stretch.
“Our thought was we fought this far, let’s not let it die,” said ND-BG junior setter Emily Brown, who amassed 32 assists and seven digs. “I think we made some little mistakes that cost us.”
“I’m happy with our comeback effort. They didn’t fold the tent after two losses,” said Verhayden. “I’m very proud of them. This is a tough place to play.”
Riley collected five kills, two scoring dinks and one of Schenectady’s four aces in the opening set. In the second set, she had five more kills, including one to end it.
“She had good power. Nice hits,” Brown said of Riley. “She knew where to put the ball.”
Bishop Gibbons used an 11-3 run to build a 16-8 lead in the third set, and went up, 13-3, to begin the fourth set. A 5-2 spurt to close that one out included three aces by Cassandra Nosal and a finishing kill by Iman Harris.
“We started to serve the ball so their setter [Katie Yang] had to play it instead of setting up their
offense,” said Verhayden. “I thought that helped us turn things around. Their setter is very good at what she does.”
Yang finished with 25 assists and 27 digs, Medley had 21 digs, and
Brielle Lizarri, Katlin DerBoghossian and DelGiacco each served for nine points.
Bouchard topped ND-BG (7-2, 10-3) with 10 kills, 20 service points and 36 digs, Siobhan Muscanelli had eight kills, 13 points and 16 digs and Nosal finished with 13 points, four aces, six kills and a pair of blocks.
Bishop Gibbons hosts Troy (6-1, 6-2) in a key league game Friday.
“Our goal was to win this game, win out, and win the league. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way you hope,” said Verhayden. “Our goal now is to beat them [Troy], draw even, and force a playoff for the league title.”