Rockets even the score in a Capital classic

October 01, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - For the second time this month, No. 5 James Buchanan and No. 6 Greencastle played a thrilling, high-level, five-game volleyball classic. The only difference was the final two points.

With the Mid-Penn Capital title hanging in the balance, the Rockets overcame memories of a loss at Greencastle on Sept. 7 and mustered up just enough energy to pay back the Blue Devils with a 25-15, 15-25, 25-9, 23-25, 15-13 victory on Thursday night.

The win pulls JB (11-2) even with Greencastle (9-3) in the conference race, and if both teams win out in their remaining conference games - a very real possibility - the rivals will share the title.


"We knew coming in it was black and white," Rockets coach Erica Piper said. "If we win, we share the conference title with them. If we lose, we don't."

The fifth game couldn't have had more suspense. There were three lead changes and four ties, the final tie coming when Greencastle finished off a run of three straight points behind Jessica Ritchey's kill and Whitney Meyers' two blocks to even it at 13-13.

"The fifth game just brought back nightmares," Piper said. "It was a true test to show what we're made of, because I know in the back of their minds they were thinking about the first match."

Sensing her team slipping, Piper called time-out.

"When we were in the time-out, we looked up to where our banners hang, then to the story from when we lost," Rockets setter Erica Helfrick said. "We thought about what it would feel like for us to win and have that conference banner hanging up there for us."

Then they went out and made it happen.

First, Helfrick set up Snyder for the last of her game-high 21 kills to get to match point. Then she set up her older sister, Ashleigh Helfrick, to the outside, and the 2003 Herald-Mail All-Area First Team selection didn't miss, putting away the final point with an exclamation mark.

"I knew I was going to her," Erica Helfrick said. "Ashleigh's out there, why not use her?"

"It's definitely exciting when the last point is a really good hit," Snyder said.

It was the end to a tremendous display of volleyball, with both teams leaving the court feeling good.

"I'd much rather take a loss to a team like this than play someone who's not up to our caliber," said Greencastle senior Jessica Ritchey, who led the way for the Blue Devils with 28 digs, 13 kills, 13 assists and eight blocks in a sensational effort. "It gets a lot more out of the girls. There's more of a push to win."

"I told the girls they don't have anything to be ashamed of, anything to hang their heads about," Blue Devils coach Vicki Ritchey said. "I don't want them to be disappointed with how they performed tonight."

Snyder and Ashleigh Helfrick both had four kills to lead JB to the win in the first game. Jessica Ritchey responded with four kills and three assists as Greencastle won the second game by the same score.

The Rockets hit on all cylinders in the third game. Leslie Serrano had five kills and two blocks and Snyder added four more kills as JB all but ran Greencastle out of the gym.

"I knew that's how we can play," Ashleigh Helfrick said. "If we could play that way in all the games, it wouldn't have been as close as it was, but we've always been an up and down team."

Putting the disasterous third game behind them, Greencastle responded with a gutsy fourth game. Jessica Ritchey had five kills and eight assists, Maxine George (10 total kills) had three kills late and Brittany Main closed the game out with a kill as the Blue devils forced a fifth game.

"We kind of gave up in Game 3, and in Game 4 we said to forget about it, that game means nothing, we have two left," Jessica Ritchey said.

"They could have put their tails between their legs and limped off the court, but they didn't," Vicki Ritchey said.

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