ALBANY — Alexander coach Jaime Lutz admitted to feeling some deja vu on Tuesday.
The Spartans held a lead against Athens, but were witnessing the Bulldogs stage a comeback.
Alexander had surrendered four points in a row to trail Athens 24-22 in fourth set, a potential winner-take-all fifth set on the horizon.
In the team’s first meeting, Alexander led 2-0 before the Bulldogs roared back to win a five-set thriller.
“We’ve been here before,” Lutz said of the message to her Spartans. “We’ve been here before with Athens and we know how bad that hurt. Take that time, take that memory that you never want to experience again, and do something about it.”
Macey Jordan and the Spartans certainly did something to change the course of the night.
The Spartans scored the final four points of the match in dramatic fashion, taking the 3-1 win (25-19, 16-25, 25-18, 26-24) over the Bulldogs.
On this night, Alexander was able to stop the hard-charging Bulldogs.
Jordan, one of Alexander’s seniors, was at the center of the heroics.
She combined with Kate Voss for a block that gave Alexander (8-11, 6-4 Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division) its 22-20 lead in the fourth set.
Athens (13-8, 7-4 TVC-Ohio) scored the next four points, the final coming on Haylie Mills’ block at the net. The Spartans called for timeout, trailing 24-22.
Jordan, a middle hitter, was in the front row for the comeback. Athens passed a ball over the net that went to Jordan. She slammed it down in the middle of the Bulldogs’ defense, cutting the deficit to 24-23.
That sent another senior, Olivia Ohms, back to the service line.
Ohms delivered an ace, tying the score at 24-24.
The spotlight went back to Jordan. She had another kill, on a pass from Macie Swart, to put Alexander ahead 25-24.
Jordan again had the final highlight. She had a block at the net, as the Bulldogs were unable to save the ball from hitting the court on their side of the net.
The Spartans rushed together to celebrate, the student section joining them on the court.
“That’s the determination that we’ve been looking for all year,” Lutz said. “What a way for it to happen. Home court, senior night, getting ready for tournaments.”
Jordan had 10 kills and two aces for the Spartans on her winning senior night.
“That’s just a Macey Jordan move,” Lutz said. “She likes to be in the spotlight and she performs well when you put it on her. She likes pressure. She performs well under pressure.”
The Bulldogs came just shy of getting into another fifth set with the Spartans. Their win back on Sept. 16 was their first over Alexander since 2017, but they were unable to sweep the season series.
Athens coach Ali Koga said the challenge in the rematch was finding consistency in a match that went back and forth most of the night.
“We have to to find that consistency where even if we make a mistake, that they keep a positive mindset so we can turn it around,” she said.
Ava Williams had 11 kills to lead Athens, while Greta Gunderson had 10 kills. Mills had seven kills, with Harper Bennett adding four kills and two aces. Layken Mullins had 31 assists.
However, Athens wasn’t able to get ahead on Tuesday. Alexander led just 19-18 in the opening set, but Lexi Grissett’s kill started a run that put the Spartans ahead.
Alexander closed the set on a 6-1 run, winning 25-19 after an Athens hitting error.
The Bulldogs had an answer in the second set. They went ahead 15-7 after a Gunderson kill, controlling the set from there.
The Spartans never got closer than down four points the rest of the way, as Athens tied the match at 1-1 with the 25-16 win.
Athens continued to lead 7-3 in the third set after Bailey Davis’ ace, but the Spartans started to regain momentum from there.
The Spartans used a four-point push to break a 13-13 tie and go ahead 17-13. Kiley Welsh had consecutive aces for a 21-16 lead, and Choley Payne’s final kill in the 25-18 win gave Alexander the 2-1 lead in the match.
The Spartans also lost a 2-1 lead a week earlier at home against Nelsonville-York, but Senior Night resulted in a win in the Alley. .
Jordan, Ohms, Payne, Jarika Hart, Haley Shields and Lauren McCall were honored before the game.
“It was just their night to shine,” Lutz said. “It’s a great, amazing group of young ladies who deserve the best. They were fun to watch.”
Grissett led Alexander with 14 kills and 18 assists. Swart added six kills and 16 assists. Payne had five kills and Ally Welsh had four kills. Kiley Welsh had four aces. Sophomore Hailie Schultz also stepped in to play libero and lead the defense.
The Spartans wrap up the regular season with games at Nelsonville-York on Wednesday and Meigs on Thursday.
The Bulldogs will conclude their regular season at home on Thursday against Vinton County. The Vikings clinched their third consecutive outright TVC-Ohio title with a win over River Valley on Tuesday.
“Just be as scrappy as we can be,” Koga said of the matchup. “Pick up everything. Make sure that we set up a solid block so the defense can set up around it and keeping the ball in play. Make the other team make the mistakes.”