BRISTOL - The Bristol Eastern girls volleyball team played in the fifth set of a match for the first time this season Thursday in its second matchup of the year against Bristol Central.
After facing an unfamiliar 2-1 deficit, the Lancers rallied back to win the final two sets and continue their 25-year winning streak over the Rams, who haven’t won a match in the rivalry since 1995.
“There were a lot of nerves, they just needed to bring it together, they needed to act as one unit,” said Eastern head coach Stefanie Reay after the match ended in set scores of 25-22, 27-29, 23-25, 25-18, 15-10. “When they start making mistakes individually, they tend to get in their heads a little bit. By pulling them out and putting them together, they were able to focus a little bit better.”
Each set saw a large lead dissipate, with some of those ending lead changes and momentum-changing wins. Central is one of just two teams this season to win a set against the Lancers and the first team to win more than one.
“I think it’s a typical Bristol Eastern [versus Bristol] Central game,” Rams head coach Lance Pepper said. “Both teams left it all on the floor and you can’t ask for much more than that. There’s a lot of subs being thrown in and out and kids held their own and that’s all you can ask for in a hard fought contest.”
Zoe Lowe and Ryley Plourde both finished with 17 kills, while Lowe added 22 digs as well for Eastern. Leah Chip notched 49 assists for the Lancers while Gwen Torreso (25) led the passing for the Rams. Emily Ericson was one of the leading offensive players for the Rams with 16 kills while Brooke Soucy anchored the defense with 36 digs.
“We know it’s always a challenge when we play Central, they always give us a run for our money,” Plourde said. “It’s fun. It’s a fun game and we like to play them.”
Trailing to start the fourth set for the first time all year, Lowe opened the fourth with an emphatic spike to take the lead in what ended up being the least competitive set so far. The Lancers took an early 10-point lead that was enough to stay ahead of any runs from the Rams, who were able to cut the lead as low as three points, before losing 25-18.
“They definitely got us on serve-receive,” Bristol Central senior Emily Ericson said. “We had the most trouble with that.”
Despite being shorter, the fifth set did not lose the drama. Eastern appeared to have a comfortable 6-1 lead, but the Rams cut the score to 7-6 instantly before tying the set at eight points apiece. Central led 10-9 before a block from the Lancers knotted the score again. Eastern went on to win the ensuing five points and secure the victory.
“These girls definitely wanted it and they showed it and they played like it and they played like a team, Reay said. ‘They definitely earned that.”
The Lancers trailed for most of the first set after falling behind 12-7, but did not take a firm lead until it won five straight points when trailing 22-20. Two more unforced errors from Central finished the set to give Eastern the early one-set lead. Both teams exchanged serve back and forth at the start before a service ace from Ericson ignited the run that gave the Rams their early five-point lead.
“We were really nervous,” Plourde said. “I feel like we were really jumpy. I feel like at the end of the game we really pulled it together and calmed down. I feel like that was the key. It was all a mental game.”
The Rams were the team required to make the large comeback in the second set after falling behind by eight points 19-11. After tying the set at 20, the teams alternated scores past the winning score of 25 until Central capitalized on back-to-back unforced errors from the Lancers to win 29-27. Eastern had an opportunity to win in regulation when it led 24-22, but a spike into the net and a missed tip tied the match at 24.
The third set almost featured another big comeback, but the Rams were able to fend off each of the Lancers’ efforts to take the lead. Central jumped out to an early lead in the set with consecutive aces, which built into a 16-8 lead. Eastern came within three points, but let the Rams regain control and lead 24-19. A series of unforced errors from Central brought the score to 24-23, but the run was quickly extinguished by a spike from Ericson.
The Lancers finish their season with two home matches next week starting with Lewis Mills on Monday while the Rams will host New Britain the same day.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com
BRISTOL EASTERN 3, BRISTOL CENTRAL 2
(25-22, 27-29, 23-25, 25-18, 15-10)
At Bristol Central
Highlights: Zoe Lowe (BE) 17 kills, 22 digs, 2 aces, 4 assists; Ryley Plourde (BE) 17 kills, 7 digs, 3 aces; Leah Chipman (BE) 49 assists, 12 digs, 4 aces, 3 kills; Emily Ericson (BC) 16 kills, 3 aces, 10 digs; Gwen Torreso (BC) 25 assists, 17 digs; Brooke Soucy (BC) 36 digs.
Records: Bristol Eastern 10-0, Bristol Central 8-2.