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PRINCETON — Mollie Bates just wanted to give her team a chance.
That’s all Princeton needed.
When Bates stepped to the service line with the Princeton volleyball team down 24-18 in the first set of Monday’s Three Rivers Conference South Division game against Sherrard, the senior libero curbed her nerves and focused on one goal.
“I was just trying to keep the ball in play and give my team chances because I know that if I give them chances they will do what they need to do,” Bates said. The Tigresses rewarded her faith.
A point away from losing the first set, Bates’s serving helped spark a 6-0 PHS rally that tied the match at 24-24.
Princeton then fought off back-to-back set points before finally persevering to win the first set and then carried the momentum into the second set to pull out a thrilling 28-26, 25-19 victory over Sherrard.
“This means a lot,” Bates said. “It shows our depth and our strength and that we can come back. Even if we’re not doing well, we’re still going to fight.”
Princeton showed a lot of heart on Monday, and in doing so pulled into the TRC South lead with Sherrard.
With the PHS victory, the Tigresses (20-6, 7-1 TRC South) and Sherrard (13-6, 6-1 TRC South) are tied atop the conference.
The teams will close the regular season Oct. 22 at Sherrard.
With PHS up 4-1 early in the first set, Sherrard’s Riley Strandgard nearly served Princeton off the court. Strandgard’s serve sparked an 8-0 Sherrard run — which included four straight aces — that gave the guests a 9-4 lead.
Sherrard continued to push in the first set as it built leads of 14-7 and 21-12 before PHS started its comeback.
The Tigresses used a 3-0 run to cut the deficit to 21-15 and then used another 3-0 spurt to pull to 22-18.
However, back-to-back misplays by PHS gave Sherrard set point at 24-18. That’s when the Tigresses took off.
A tip by Princeton senior setter Michelle Kelly gave Bates the serve with the Tigresses down 24-19.
An ace by Bates, a misplay by Sherrard and a block from sophomore outside hitter Hailey Schultz pulled PHS to 24-22 and caused Sherrard coach Lori Brown to call a timeout.
“I believed the whole time because we kept fighting and fighting,” Bates said. “Once we got to 20, I knew that we could do this.”
Out of the timeout, Schultz put down a kill to pull PHS to 24-23, and a kill attempt by Sherrard that sailed long tied the match.
With the momentum, Princeton’s rally stalled as a wide kill attempt by senior middle hitter Becca Hult gave Sherrard set point at 25-24.
However, a Kelly tip tied the match, but a block by Hult sailed out of bounds to give Sherrard its eighth set point at 26-25.
This time, a kill by senior outside hitter Ashley Farraher tied the match before a block from Hult pushed PHS ahead at 27-26. A double-hit call by Sherrard gave the Tigresses the game.
In the second set, the Tigresses took control midway through as a 3-0 rally gave Princeton a lead it never relinquished.
Up 19-17, PHS finally put the set away as a Schultz kill and then block ignited a 6-2 closing run to give PHS the match.
“This was good for the kids,” PHS coach Andy Puck said. “We haven’t experienced a lot of postseason atmospheres, but this was definitely one of them.
“I knew the kids could do this, but the kids showed they could persevere and trust one another, which is huge. This is the time of year where you have to do that.” Bates finished with a team-high nine points, while Schultz had a team-high eight kills. Kelly dished out 22 assists, had a team-high 12 digs and served up eight points. Hult added six kills and five blocks.
Note: Princeton swept the night as the sophomore team prevailed 27-25, 25-23, while the freshman squad earned a 19-25, 30-28, 25-23 victory.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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