TYLER - Prior to Thursday night, the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton volleyball team had played in eight matches on the season that were decided in a first-to-15 final set. It was only fitting then, as the Knights faced off against the Lakeview Lakers in Camden Conference action, that five sets were required to settle the matter.
RTR emerged from the night with a 25-23, 22-25, 19-25, 29-27, 15-9 win to improve to 14-7 on the season (6-4 Camden Conference).
"They're not giving up and they believe that they're in every game," RTR head coach TJ Williams said of the Knights' penchant for extra sets. "That's probably our best feature we have right now. If we get down points, the game's not over. We keep fighting and we can come back."
Photo by Travis Andries
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton’s Leslie Willert, right, tries to hit past the block of Lakeview’s Amanda Jeseritz, center, and Alli Boerboom during Thursday’s Camden Conference match in Tyler.
The Knights had their comeback skills on display, rallying from 2-1 deficit and fighting off four match points in the fourth set on their way to victory.
RTR, propelled by an energetic homecoming crowd, won the first set, which, like the match as a whole, was characterized by wild swings of momentum.
Lakeview jumped out to an early 9-2, but was outscored by the Knights 18-6 to bring the score to 20-15. The Lakers bounced back with an 8-1 run of their own, but the Knights recorded the final four points, flanked by a pair of Allison Pochardt kills, to take the set.
The second set was considerably less volatile as the teams traded points until Alli Boerboom and Tegan VanMoer each knocked down a couple kills to spark a 5-0 Lakeview run and break an 18-all tie. Leslie Willert had three kills late to try and bring the Knight back within reach, but another Boerboom kill and a hitting error on the Knights tied the match for Lakeview.
Lakeview's two senior captains stayed strong in the third set, fueling a 16-3 Lakeview run that paved the way for the Lakers to go up 2-1 on the night.
"Alli and Tegan are our captains and seniors on the team," Lakeview head coach Phil Lalim said. "And they do a nice job of supporting the team around them and, at times, shouldering the load for us. Getting the kills when we need them, getting in serves."
Boerboom finished the match with 10 kills and was 22 of 22 serving with three aces. VanMoer led the Lakers in kills (19) and digs (14), while picking up five aces thanks to a treacherous jump serve that the Knights struggled to pick up.
"I don't know how she does it," Lalim said of VanMoer's dipping, swerving, slicing serve. "She's been practicing it all year and just in the last game or so has brought it out. She just wasn't confident in it, I think, so now I think she's finding some confidence with it."
VanMoer's wasn't the first jump serve the Knights have seen on the year, but it was the most potent, according to Williams.
"If we have seen a jump serve, it's not been like that," Williams said. "It kind of threw us off. It's hard to read. You think it's there, and then all of a sudden it's not anywhere you thought it would be."
In the fourth set, Lakeview took the upper hand first when a 4-1 run gave the Lakers a 13-10 lead. RTR answered back with a 5-0 run of its own. Both teams battled back and forth until the Lakers took advantage of two aces by Madi Nelson to come within one point of ending the match.
Trailing 24-21, the Knights proved impossible to unhorse as they scored four points to take 25-24 lead. The Knights had another match point at 26-25, but survived long enough for Willert smash down a kill and force a lift on the Lakers to give RTR a 29-27 win and force a fifth set.
"She's definitely stepped up as a senior this year," Williams said of Willert. "She's been there when we've needed her, and definitely tonight. She was on fire when we needed the big swing and needed smart play from the outside."
Willert led the Knights with 12 kills, while Janel Wichern had nine kills and two ace serves.
Wichern's strong play, in the fifth set especially, helped secure RTR's sixth win in a row. The sophomore outside hitter had an ace serve, an ace block and three kills in the deciding set that was controlled by the Knights from start to finish.
"With Janel, come the fifth set, she had to step up big," Williams said. "She's one of our top players on our team. We were looking for her to be a leader in the fifth set."
For the Lakers (9-11 overall, 2-7 Camden Conference), the loss to RTR marked their fourth consecutive defeat. In order to end the slide, the Lakers will need to play with the same confidence from behind as they do when they are in the lead.
"It's easy to play when you're ahead," Lalim said. "We play relaxed and we do a lot of good things. But as soon as we get behind, we tense up and we start playing to not make an error instead of playing to win. So that's going to be our focus, don't let yourself get down when you're behind."
Lakeview will look to snap its losing streak on Monday when the Lakers travel to Springfield for a non-conference match against the Tigers. RTR is off until Oct. 12 when the Knights compete in the Subway Classic in Marshall.
Lakeview23 25 25 27 9
RTR25 22 19 29 15
LAKEVIEW INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Serving (good-att-aces): Alli Boerboom 22-22-3, Tegan VanMoer 17-21-5, Madi Nelson 17-19-2
Kills: VanMoer 19, Boerboom 10.
Digs: VanMoer 14, Kana Barker 11.
Set Assists: Nelson 29.
Blocks: Brianna Hoffman 5, VanMoer 1.
RTR INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Serving (good-att-aces): Allison Pochardt 19-20-0, Janel Wichern 18-19-2, Leslie Willert 13-13-0.
Kills: Willert 12, Wichern 9, Pochardt 4.
Digs: Destinee Strand 12, Delanie Jorgensen 11, Wichern 11, Pochardt 11.
Set Assists: Strand 7.
Blocks: Dana Schaefer 7, Justine Possail 4.