Three straight games, two volleyball powerhouses, one number one ranking.
When all was said and done, it belonged to the Pride.
On Thursday, Sept. 20, in front of their home crowd, Leesville Road swept Cardinal Gibbons 25-16, 25-20, 25-20 to maintain their undefeated 11-0 record, the best in school history.
Taine Mergenthaler, head coach, knew going into Thursday’s contest that his team would be challenged by the defending 4-A state champions. “We’ve played good teams before, but this was the time for us to either fold or rise to the occasion,” said Mergenthaler.
Going up early 7-3 in the first set, Leesville cruised to a 25-16 win, giving the team a 1-0 lead and sending the Loonies into a frenzy.
“The crowd definitely motivated us,” said Allison Stone, senior. “When we saw that our fans were so emotionally invested in the game, that they were cheering for us, it just made everything more intense.”
As the second set began, Leesville jumped out to another quick lead, but Gibbons rallied and tied the game at 16. However, the Pride, relying on the crowd’s momentum, were able to push ahead and managed to pull out a 25-20 win in the second set, leaving Leesville with an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
During the second set, Leesville Road realized that they had thrown the Crusader’s offense out of sync, forcing them to start tipping, or trying to poke the ball over the heads of the Leesville front line.
“Once they started tipping, we had to make adjust our space and change the areas we were covering. Instead of trying to cover the entire court, we focused on picking up tips, which took a really strong effort from our defense,” said Sarah Kelly, junior.
In the week leading up to the game, Mergenthaler studied the tape he had on Cardinal Gibbons and advised his team to look out for when the Crusaders started tipping, a sign that their offense was out of sync.
“Knowing their tendencies beforehand definitely helped us,” said Mergenthaler. “Because we knew what they would do, we weren’t as surprised when it happened in the game and it made it easier for us to cope.”
After falling behind and trailing for much of the third set, Leesville managed to crawl their way back and tie the game at 16. Once they had evened the score, the Pride held onto their lead and won the third set 25-20 to clinch the match and claim the area’s number one ranking once and for all.
Said Kelly, “Going into the game, we knew who they were, but we were just trying to pr
ove that we had improved as a team. Now, seeing what we were able to accomplish, I’m proud of our team and the way we played; we earned the number one ranking.”