LOOGOOTEE — Rock Creek Academy fought back from two sets down and took control in the decisive fifth set in Saturday's Class A Loogootee Regional semifinal match against sixth-ranked Springs Valley. The Lions, however, couldn't sustain the momentum.
The Blackhawks rallied for a 25-23, 25-21, 11-25, 21-25, 15-11 triumph.
“I told them I was very proud of them,” Rock Creek coach Jennifer Brown said of her team.
The comeback had included overcoming a 13-5 deficit for a fourth set win – after which the Lions built a 10-5 lead in the fifth. Springs Valley would close out on a 10-1 run to win the set and the match – ending No. 12-ranked Rock Creek’s season at 25-8.
“Five points is never enough for us,” Brown said of the fifth set lead. “It can change. The momentum shifted.”
Momentum shifts happened throughout the match and it was all Springs Valley (28-6) early on.
The first set was close from the start with 15 ties and numerous lead changes. Rock Creek led by as many as three early in the set (10-7) and held a slim margin - 23-22 - after a block by junior middle hitter Ligia Williams. But the Blackhawks answered with three straight points to win the set 25-23.
Scoring runs by both teams marked the second set. Rock Creek had a 6-1 run to lead 6-3 early and the Lions led 12-10 midway through the set. Springs Valley answered with a 6-0 surge to lead 16-12. The Blackhawks led 20-15 and looked to put away the second set when the Lions answered. Kills by Williams, sophomore Jenna Rogers and junior middle hitter Morgan Schmidt helped Rock Creek get within three (23-20) – Williams added an ace and the deficit was just two.
Once again, Springs Valley had a late answer and won the second set 25-21.
On the ropes, Rock Creek responded with a great third set.
A pair of kills by Williams and junior outside hitter Leah Thompson paced the Lions to a 10-4 lead. It was 10-7 when Williams had a kill and an ace to spark a 6-1 run that made it 16-8.
Thompson took over from there – her three kills led Rock Creek to a 25-11 win.
“We didn’t stop playing in the third set,” Brown said of her team’s strong finish.
If the third set showed how good the Lions could be — the fourth set showed how resilient the Lions were.
Looking to shake off the third set, Springs Valley rolled out to a 9-2 lead on the way to a 13-5 margin. Elimination for Rock Creek seemed just points away.
But the Lions wouldn’t quit. A block and three kills by Williams were part of a 9-3 run that pulled Rock Creek to within two (16-14). Springs Valley stayed in front but couldn’t put it away. A Thompson kill tied it at 18.
A kill by Ligia Williams put the Lions on top 23-21 on the way to a 25-21 comeback win. That tied the match at two sets apiece and set up the deciding fifth – the first team to 15 would advance.
Rock Creek, with all the momentum, got out to a good lead. Ligia Williams led the way, her two kills, two aces and a block helped put the Lions up 10-5.
And just like that, the momentum shifted to the Blackhawks. Their 10-1 run finished the set and the match.
“They certainly fought,” Brown said of her team. “A few simple things is all we had to do.”
With the loss, Rock Creek Academy is looking to next season. The young team loses only one senior – but that’s a big loss. Setter Bailey Brown, the coach’s daughter, will be sorely missed.
“She gave her all,” coach Brown said of her daughter. “I have no idea what we’ll do for a setter [next season].”
For the match, Ligia Williams had 21 kills, four blocks and 15 digs. Bailey Brown had 36 assists and 15 digs while Thompson had 15 kills. Lajoy Williams had 17 digs and Schmidt finished with four aces.