SCHENECTADY — Looking back, the first point in Tuesday’s Western Athletic Conference girls’ volleyball match was a harbinger of what was to follow.
That opening point between Mekeel Christian Academy and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons took just less than a minute to complete. ND-BG won that long point . . . but, more than two hours later, MCA finished off a five-set victory against one of its top rivals in the WAC.
“The thing about ND-BG is they’re always fighting for every single point,” MCA head coach Kevin Islip said. “You can’t let them back in because they’re always fighting — and we let them back in.”
But MCA (2-0) found a way to keep ND-BG (2-2) from recording a comeback victory, as MCA collected a wild 25-12, 25-23, 11-25, 23-25, 25-15 victory.
“They’re very tough, and we wanted to come out and beat them — and that’s what we did,” MCA senior Mackenzie Islip said. “But they are a very good team.”
MCA rolled through the first set before needing a pair of aces from senior Clare Nelson to close out the second. After those opening sets, ND-BG head coach Kelsey Hart challenged her team to put those defeats behind it and keep focused.
“That triggered something for them,” Hart said. “We took it and ran with it.”
“We really wanted it. We’re the home team and we wanted to beat them,” ND-BG junior Anna Dobkowski said. “We started playing like a team.”
ND-BG dominated the third set before forcing a fifth after a back-and-forth fourth. ND-BG led 20-14 in the fourth set, fell behind 23-21 — and found the energy to rattle off the next four points to take the set.
“I think we had enough energy today for six sets,” Hart said.
But MCA closed out the win with a decisive final set. ND-BG didn’t score consecutive points in the fifth game until MCA had already built a 12-5 lead. ND-BG forced a timeout with a run to get within 19-14 late in the set, but MCA ended the match on a 6-1 run capped with an ace from sophomore Alycia Lee.
“We refocused. We got some of our serves going and our players started making smart passes,” coach Islip said. “If you just let them play, the good comes out.”
In defeat, ND-BG’s senior Treasa Kozakiewicz paired 11 kills and 18 digs, while senior Maria Dobkowski had 25 digs. Anna Dobkowski added 14 assists and sophomore Christina Brown had eight kills.
MCA’s Nelson had 14 kills, 16 digs and eight aces, while Mackenzie Islip had 26 assists and 12 digs. Senior Sydney Ekstein added 26 digs and nine aces, and junior Sophia Armao collected 20 digs.
The victory for MCA completed a grueling two-match stretch to start its season. Before topping ND-BG, MCA defeated Galway — a Class C state semifinalist in 2016 — last week in five sets.
During the MCA preseason, Nelson said the team’s players chanted the names of their opening two opponents during conditioning drills to stay motivated.
“We had the mentality we couldn’t lose either of these first two,” Nelson said.
After a rough start, ND-BG did its best to keep MCA from achieving its goal — but the Lions had enough left in the tank to score another big win.
“It was our day,” coach Islip said. “Our fifth set.”