Playing in front of a CHHS home crowd where visiting fans seemed to outnumber the home faithful, the Chapel Hill volleyball team battled back from a two game deficit to win a best-of-five, first round, 5A state playoff match against Ola High School on Thursday.
The win propels the Lady Panthers to the Sweet 16 for the second time under coach Jeremy Anderson. Chapel Hill will play at River Ridge on Tuesday.
The the first round match, Chapel Hill dropped the first two games, 17-15 and 14-25. Both teams battled back-and-forth in the third game, with the Lady Panthers managing to stay alive with a 25-20 win. The next two games belonged to Chapel Hill. The girls won, 25-15 and 15-9.
“When we were down by two games, I reminded the girls of two years ago when we were up by two and the other team came back to win,” Anderson said. “I told them this is the year for us because we are the better team and we are going to catch fire and win the next three games. They believed it and got it done.”
Both the Lady Panthers and Lady Mustangs came out battling in the opening minutes of the first game. Chapel Hill never led, but managed to tie the game three times before Ola stayed in the lead after going up, 5-4 when Katie Russell spiked the ball up the middle of the court.
Russell was nearly unstoppable for the first two games and most of the third game. The tall, muscular middle hitter dominated at the net, spiking and blocking shot after shot.
On the flip side, the Lady Panthers were struggling. Kylah Maxwell-Brown had yet to find her stroke, and would not for most of the first two games, hitting several balls out of bounds and into the net.
The Lady Mustangs took their first two point lead at 7-5 when Maxwell-Brown sent a shot into the net. The play was the start of a five point run for Ola. Taylor Hall picked up a couple of kills in the run, while Noell Stanton served.
For the rest of the first game, the Lady Mustangs scored two points for every Chapel Hill point. Russell had four kills over that span. Ola’s Kelley Adkins spiked the ball off a block to close the game.
The Lady Panthers took their first lead of the match when they went up 1-0 in the second game off a cross-court kill by Maxwell-Brown. However, the Lady Mustangs went up 2-1 off a kill by Russell and a soft shot by Stanton that floated over the Chapel Hill front line. Ola would not lose the lead for the rest of the match.
The Lady Mustangs scored two more points to complete a four point run. The Lady Panthers cut the deficit to one point at 6-5, and kept the match close until Ola began to pull away at 12-10. The Lady Mustangs went on a six point run, with Russell scoring three times and Chapel Hill giving away three points.
Up 18-11, Ola scored five more times before allowing a point of a kill by Lady Panther net player, Krista Haynes. The Lady Mustangs closed the door when Stanton tipped the ball over the net for a score.
The third game started similarly to the second game, with Chapel Hill taking a 1-0 lead and then Ola going up 4-1. The Lady Mustangs maintained the advantage until the Lady Panthers tied the game at 5-5 when Ola’s Hannah Holder hit the ball out of bounds. The Lady Panthers allowed a point, but then Daryl Mitchell tied the game at 7-7. Chapel Hill’s Emily Austin scored on a serve, giving the Lady Panthers their first lead of the match that wasn’t 1-0.
A little back-and-forth played ensued with the lead being changed seven times before Chapel Hill took the advantage for good at 21-20 on a Maxwell-Brown kill that powered through two block attempts. Mitchell and Jackie Williams teamed up to score on a block on the next point, forcing an Ola timeout. After the break, a Lady Mustang player went under the net, giving Chapel Hill a 23-20 lead. Maxwell-Brown scored on a spike and Ola hit the ball out of bounds to end the game.
The Lady Panthers dominated in game four, taking a 7-0 lead behind two kills from Haynes, and a block and a kill from Maxwell-Brown. Austin and Mitchell also scored.
After exchanging a few possessions, Chapel Hill outscored Ola, 6-2, to take a commanding 17-5 lead. The rest of the game was a stalemate and ended on a long serve out of bounds by the Lady Mustangs.
The Lady Panthers took no chances in game five, going up 4-0 and 8-2. The run was led by Maxwell-Brown at the net and Mitchell at the service line. Ola cut into the deficit behind the play of Adkins, forcing Chapel Hill to call at timeout, up 10-7. After the break, the Lady Panthers outscored the Lady Mustang, 3-1, forcing Ola’s coach to call at time out, down 13-8. Maxwell-Brown spiked the ball to put Chapel Hill one point away from victory. After Ola scored a point, the Lady Mustangs hit a shot out of bounds, giving the Lady Panthers the win.
I felt like we were the stronger team in the first two games, but we just made error after error,” Anderson said. “In the third game, Christa just lit them up and she got us a lead of about four or five points and that started everybody. She came through at the most curtail time.”
Mitchell led the team from the service line with 22 points and three aces. Maxwell-Brown led the team with 19 kills. Austin followed with eight and Haynes added seven.