Monticello coach John Mitchem would prefer that his team avoid the problem in the first place, but with the way his team responded after facing a significant deficit in game one, it’s hard to be too upset. The Mustangs rallied from behind to win game one on the road against host William Monroe, held on to that momentum to take game two, and after falling in a tight third game, responded in the fourth by gutting out a win and sealing the match 3-1, 25-21, 25-14, 21-25, 25-23.
“I give our team credit because we’ve had a hard time starting matches,” Mitchem said. “Against (Western Albemarle last week) we’re down 8-2 in a game and came back to win that one, here we were down in that first 9-1 and did the same. We don’t want to do that, because you’re not going to dig out of that later in the year, but I thought they did a good job tonight of gutting it out.”
The Greene Dragons came out hot and quickly built up a 9-1 lead to force a Monticello timeout. After that time out, the Mustangs answered back to tie the game at 19 as the squad’s middle hitter, Kate Geldmacher, and setter Mariah Williams started rolling. The Mustangs won six of the last eight points to build a 1-0 lead.
“We’ll did dig ourselves a hole, but our team is really good about getting over the mental hump,” Geldmacher said. “We had to dig deep and start making plays, and once we did I thought we were good from there.”
In game two Monticello was able to carry over its previous momentum and played its best volleyball of the night while Monroe, which started out the match boisterous and intense, dragged its feet a bit. With Geldmacher doing the heavy lifting, it was the only game of the match that wasn’t down to the wire as Monticello went up by 10 early and never let Monroe get closer than five points from then on.
“Geldmacher was tough to stop,” said Monroe coach Denise Hoffman. “They kept setting her and our middles, we’re pretty green, almost brand spanking new.”
Monroe found its spark back in game three and watched Alex Cave almost single-handedly mount a comeback as she played exceptional defense on the backline and then stepped forward to lead the Dragons offense.
“With Alex you just keep setting her until her arm falls off,” Hoffman said. “She’s a smart hitter and the best back row player we’ve got. She’s amazing.”
As Monticello looked to lock down on Cave, junior Tiffany Sneed and senior Katelyn Roach started chipping in blocks and kills. Both teams fought back and forth, but the Dragons were able to take a four point lead late and hang on down the stretch.
Of all the games, the fourth was the closest from start to finish as neither team was able to get out in front by much. With Cave and Geldmacher trading blows, it was a tie game late, but then Divine pushed Monticello ahead with a pair of aces to make it a four point game late. William Monroe closed to within a point at 24-23, but Monticello shut the door on a fifth game immediately after.
Geldmacher led all hitters with her 19-kill night while teammate Brittany Scott contributed seven on her own. Divine had a staggering 10 aces. Williams finished with 34 assists and tied Geldmacher for the team lead in blocks with two. Taylor Hopkins anchored the defense with 15 digs.
For Monroe, Cave put together an impressive two-way performance leading her squad with 14 kills and 12 digs. Setter Haley Dodd had 22 assists. Snead finished with a game high four blocks.
The win puts Monticello in sole possession of second place in the Jefferson District, something that Mitchem and his team had in mind.
“After the Western loss we wanted to make sure that we got halfway through our district schedule at 6-1.” Mitchem said. “We’ve achieved that goal, so we’re happy about that.”
Despite the loss, Monroe’s spirits remained bright as Hoffman was particularly happy with the way her team battled back.
“We’re not unhappy at all,” Hoffman said. “Our kids scrambled and fought for everything they could out there and gave it their all.”
William Monroe hosts Louisa on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Monticello travels to Orange County also on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.