After dropping two of the first three sets against Elmore County, the Benjamin Russell volleyball team had its back against the wall, trailing 19-17 in the fourth set. After a timeout from BRHS coach Magan Ford, the Wildcats rolled off six of the next seven points to take the lead before Brooklyn Edwards and Bre Smith finished off the set with back-to-back kills.
The Wildcats (15-10) took some time to pull away in the fifth set but scored eight of the match’s final 10 points to win, 22-25, 25-18, 22-25, 25-22, 15-9. Smith recorded her 13th kill on the final point to complete the comeback.
“There haven’t been very many sets with these girls where I have thought it is over,” Ford said. “Their mindset is so strong and they do such a good job of fighting back. When we came back and won that fourth set, I was confident.”
Each team had its share of unforced errors but the Panthers seemed to be the beneficiary more often than not. Elmore County scored the first five points of the match which included four of the Wildcats’ 12 errors in the first set.
The Wildcats responded by leaning on their front-row hitters and they came through under pressure. Zaria Roberson recorded four of her 10 kills in the second set, including consecutive kills which built Benjamin Russell’s lead to a match-high eight points.
“In the first set, Elmore County’s net play dominated ours,” Ford said. “I told Bre and Brooklyn to step up and they really did. Both of them and Zaria Roberson stepped up and had some really good swings for us.”
Benjamin Russell had five players record at least one kill in three of the five sets. Smith and Edwards each finished with a kill in all five sets and the two combined for four kills and two blocks in the final frame.
“We wanted to run a few things but we got caught on our heels a little bit,” Ford said. “Things weren’t going our way so you have to react and play. We had to let our instincts take over.”
The Wildcats had to overcome 15 service errors which included 11 in the two sets they dropped. Ford said it was the worst serving game she has seen from her team during her time at Benjamin Russell.
“We are usually so strong serving so to be able to fight through on a day when one of your strengths is your weakness, it helps you grow,” Ford said. “But we have to get back to our serving.”
Despite the match being in Eclectic, the Wildcats got an extra boost from the traveling fans who were led by the junior varsity squad. The noise in the gym picked up late in the third set and Ford said it gave her team a much-needed boost of energy.
“We are not the team that has a chip on our shoulder with something to prove,” Ford said. “We play better when we are light and having fun. To see the JV team get into it and give off a little energy, we fed off them. I don’t know what we would have done without the JV tonight.”
Benjamin Russell returns to Eclectic for the annual ECHS Block Party on Saturday. The Wildcats won the tournament last season and Wednesday’s match will give the Panthers an extra motivation as they seek revenge on the Wildcats.
“We want to play Elmore County every chance we can get,” Ford said. “Every time we get on the court, we expect to win but we know they are going to be coming for us. You have a good five-set game like that, they’re going to want revenge. The girls will have to wake up early and be ready to work.”