Note: This recap appears in the Sunday, Oct. 13 newspaper on Page B2.
NELSONVILLE — The Buckeyes hosted the Bulldogs in the second matchup of the season Thursday night.
The two teams met back on Sept. 5, resulting in a four-set away victory for Nelsonville-York. Luckily for the Buckeyes, that result repeated itself in Thursday night’s late-season rematch which doubled as senior night.
The Buckeyes won the first two sets by scores of 26-24 and 25-15. The game ended on a 25-13 win in set four. It was the last regular season game for both teams.
Nelsonville-York suffered a 3-1 loss to Logan its last time out. The Bulldogs headed into the game following a 3-1 win over Meigs.
Athens looked to run away with the first set after jumping out to an 11-0 lead. Senior Sarah Webb got several serves over, tallying five aces during the opening run. Nelsonville-York took a timeout after the rough start.
The Buckeyes fought back to make it 19-14 in set one. Nelsonville-York completed the comeback with the help of setter Madison Booth and the surrounding hitters, taking the set 26-24.
Booth finished the set with 11 assists. Hitters Mackenzie Hurd and Brittlyn Call had five kills and Haley Hurd picked up three.
In the second set, Booth continued her stellar performance setting the ball to hitters. Ryleigh Giffin, Mackenzie Hurd, and Call combined for 16 kills. The Buckeyes would take a 2-0 lead after winning set two 25-15.
After disappointing losses in the first two sets, Athens was not quite finished. Webb had three assists and another ace in the third set. The Buckeyes had a few net violations and service errors; mistakes the Bulldogs took advantage of. Kyleigh Heller had back-to-back aces late in the set, securing the 25-16 win for Athens.
Nelsonville-York did not need a fifth set to get the win. Booth and the hitters dominated the fourth and final set. The game ended on a convincing 25-13 Buckeyes win in set four.
Seniors Joscelyn Heller, Brittlyn Call, Grace Sinnott, Alisson Loge, and Haley Hurd enjoyed a senior night victory to a packed crowd at Ben Wagner Stadium.
The Buckeyes’ impressive comeback in set one was a catalyst for the remainder of the game. Wayne Dicken, head coach of Nelsonville-York, took a timeout after the Bulldogs’ opening run. He wanted his team to calm down and play their game.
“I tried to stress to the girls that we never want to get too high, we never want to get too low,” Dicken said. “I told them to calm down, to catch their breath a little bit. We knew we were capable of making that comeback.”
Booth finished the game with 37 assists. Mackenzie Hurd led the Buckeyes in kills with 20. Call and Haley Hurd tallied 10 kills, and Giffin finished with nine. Dicken pointed to the back-row’s performance as the key to success at the net.
“It really all starts with the back-row. If they can get (Booth) a good ball, she’s probably got the best hands in the league,” he said. “She reads the defense well and gives our hitters a good chance at it.”
Athens had a tough time near the net. Call and Haley Hurd led the way blocking, and outside hitters Mackenzie Hurd and Giffin helped send back the Bulldogs’ hits.
“All season long, that’s something we’ve tried to take pride in,” said Dicken. “They did a great job getting in position, being where they need to be, and getting good touches on the ball.”
Athens head coach Olivia Pokas appreciated her team’s effort after dropping the first two sets. Playing in a senior night game to an energetic Nelsonville-York crowd made the task that much more difficult.
“I’m very proud of how they played tonight,” she said. “They didn’t give up, they had energy, they played like a team. I hope to carry that going into tournament play.”
The Bulldogs had a total of 10 aces Thursday night, seven of which came from Webb. Kyleigh Heller tallied two and Grace Reed had one. Webb finished the game with 11 assists and four kills along with the seven aces. Baelyn Carey and Summer Gilkey both had six kills.
The Buckeyes improve to 14-9 (8-4 TVC-Ohio) and the Bulldogs drop to 10-12 (6-6 TVC-Ohio) to finish the regular season.
Athens will host Meigs on Oct. 14 at p.m. in a tournament play-in game. Nelsonville-York hosts New Lexington on Oct. 19 at 4 p.m.