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Spartans win battle of unbeatens

October 08, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - McConnellsburg's volleyball team still has James Buchanan's number and its perfect season intact - barely.

The Spartans (No. 6 Herald-Mail poll) rallied from a surprisingly lopsided loss in Game 1 Monday for a gritty three-game victory over the No. 5 Rockets, 3-15, 15-11, 15-13.

"This is a close rivalry," McConnellsburg coach Greg Hays said of the series, in which the Spartans have never lost to the Rockets. "We're holding (them off), but their program is tough."

After Game 1, it appeared James Buchanan (12-1) might be too tough for McConnellsburg (11-0) to handle.

The Rockets came out firing on all cylinders, and their attack overwhelmed the Spartans. With Lindsay Crider supplying the ammo (six assists in Game 1, 21 overall), Abby Stoner had four kills and Ashleigh Helfrick and Emilee Seville had three as JB took it to McConnellsburg, which struggled early.

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"They're coming in here with questionmarks in their mind, and in the first game, I think we found we had a questionmark in our mind," Hays said. "We couldn't do things with our passing and getting it to our attackers at all the first game.

"Whether it's 15-3 or 16-14, you're only down one game. Our goal then was to win one game (Game 2)."

Bruised but not beaten, the Spartans built an 8-2 lead in Game 2, kick-started by consecutive aces from Jade Anthony.

"I think (we) let up in the second game, and it took us so long to regroup," JB coach Erica Piper said.

The Rockets did regroup, grinding their way back to tie the game at 8-8. But after Trisha Seiders' kill gave serve back to the Spartans, Steph Paylor reeled off five straight points - including two kills by Lindsay Lininger and one from Kara Carmack - for a 13-8 lead. JB made it 13-11 on its next hold of serve, but McConnellsburg closed it out when the Rockets were called for being in the net.

JB started fast Game 3, taking an 8-3 lead - five of those points coming on McConnellsburg errors - before the Spartans did likewise, taking advantage of three Rockets errors to knot the game at 8-8.

From there, it became a battle of nerves, with both teams mixing a clutch play here and there with mistakes. JB took a 13-12 lead on Seville's kill off a Crider assist, but the next serve sailed long.

The Rockets wouldn't catch a break the rest of the way. JB was called for a lift, then for being in the net, giving the Spartans match point.

Anthony's serve was played high, and the ball hit a steel beam running across the ceiling of McConnellsburg's gym and bounced straight down, landing between three JB players for the winning point.

"I still don't think we're hitting on all cylinders," Hays said. "I don't think either team played their best game. ... Emotion plays such a role in a game like this, it's tough."

"McConnellsburg proved they wanted it more," Piper said. "They came back from losing the first game, won the second game and outplayed us the third game."

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