By Brad Morris
Teays Valley has developed a flare for the dramatic over the last four days.
The Vikings opened the week with a come-from-behind five-set win over Grove City and then knocked off second-place Liberty Union a day later in another five-set thriller.
Teays Valley, however, saved the best for last on Thursday, as it rallied for a 16-25, 26-24, 25-22, 12-25 and 15-12 Mid-State League Buckeye Division win to hand host Circleville its first loss inside the league this season.
“This has been a fun week for our team where we are playing pretty well and getting a lot of contributions from everyone,” Teays Valley coach Bailey Walker said. “Our girls do a great job of playing together and feeding off the success each other is having.”
After converting 14 kills with just two errors in a dominating fourth set, it appeared early in the deciding fifth set that the Tigers would keep their unblemished league record intact.
Kenzie McConnell blocked a pair of Teays Valley attacks and also put down two kills to help the Tigers to a 6-2 lead and force Teays Valley to burn a timeout.
The Vikings countered by scoring nine of the next 11 points to take an 11-8 lead. Back-to-back aces courtesy of Olivia Brent gave the Vikings the lead at 9-8, and that was followed by two kills from Brenna Kauffeld and Kamryn Withrow.
“Our serving came up big in the fifth set to score some pretty big points,” Walker said. “We know we have girls who are capable of doing that and stepping up in the big moment.”
Circleville tied the match at 11-11, but the Vikings took the lead for good with three-straight points, highlighted by a kill from Megan Evans, an ace courtesy of Emma Ashcraft and a block by Withrow to bring up match point.
Withrow then closed the match with a kill, as the Vikings bench rushed the floor to join in the celebration that included taking a team photo after the match.
“It goes back to the whole package, with serve-receive, setting and getting the ball to our hitters in good spots,” Walker said. “We stress 15 girls contributing to the team, and that’s what we have.”
The Tigers went on a 9-3 run to take control of the opening set, highlighted by five kills, a solo block and an ace by Kenzie McConnell to take the early lead.
Teays Valley picked up its defense starting in the second set and covered the floor much better. A kill by Withrow gave the Vikings set point at 25-24, and an errant CHS attack tied the match at a set apiece.
“Teays Valley did a nice job of keeping the ball alive and it made the appropriate changes when it needed to,” Circleville coach Danielle Perkins said. “They played with a lot of fire and you could tell that they really wanted this game.
“They were bigger at the net overall, as a team, and did a nice job of playing the whole court and making it tougher on our smaller, more defensively-minded team.”
Back-to-back kills courtesy of Withrow and Kauffeld secured the final two points of the third set for the Vikings and put the Tigers behind in a match for the first time all season.
In Circleville’s only other loss earlier this month against Alexander, the Tigers won the first two sets and never trailed until they lost the five-set marathon.
The Tigers (14-2, 9-1) remain a game ahead of second-place Liberty Union (12-4, 8-2) and are slated to host the Lions next Thursday. Teays Valley (11-4, 7-3) solidified third-place and remains in striking distance with four league matches remaining.
“We’re getting everyone’s best shot because they want to knock us off,” Perkins said. “We need to come back, continue to work and get ready for a tough stretch run if we want to close out winning the league. No one is going to make it easy on us and we have some good teams we’re playing down the stretch.”
Circleville hosts Logan on Saturday for a non-league match, then resumes league play on Tuesday at Bloom-Carroll. Teays Valley hosts Bishop Ready on Monday for a non-league match, then travels to Amanda-Clearcreek on Tuesday for a league match.
Kills – Kenzie McConnell, 32; Morgan Blakeman, 16; Zoey Ferguson, 4; Jayla Parsons, 3
Assists – Jayla Parsons, 37; Gabby McConnell, 13
Aces – Kenzie McConnell, 3
Solo Blocks – Kenzie McConnell, 3
Digs – Kenzie McConnell, 29; Cara Cooper, 22; Jayla Parsons, 22; Gabby McConnell, 20; Chandler Hayes, 18; Morgan Blakeman, 14
Teays Valley statistics were not available late Thursday.