Facing a daunting deficit after dropping the first two sets of Tuesday’s volleyball showdown against Sacred Heart Greenwich, King School’s eye-opening 43-match winning streak was in serious jeopardy.
Then came a well-earned victory in the fourth set, setting the stage for the three-time defending FAA champion Vikings’ biggest comeback during their success streak that’s covered parts of three seasons.
Consecutive win No. 44 was like no other for King, which pulled out a thrilling 3-2 triumph over host Sacred Heart in an intense FAA match. Accustomed to sweeping their opponents, the Vikings won the match against the Tigers by game scores of 13-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-16, 15-12.
“They have a lot on them, they knew what was on the line,” said King coach Tung Tran, who has guided the Vikings to two consecutive 20-0 seasons. “They knew they had to dig deep to pull it back. Our team is on a wonderful streak, 44 wins, which was on the line.”
Senior Ali Wheeler registered 19 assists, 20 digs and six kills, junior Ava Robinowitz tallied 27 digs and six kills and senior Kelly Conheeney had 14 service points, 28 digs and four kills to help pace King (4-0).
“We never let ourselves get down, we stayed up,” said Conheeney, a tri-captain. “We had a slow start, but we never got down on each other and our team support is what helped us win this game.”
In parts of four seasons, King has not lost a single set to an FAA opponent, but that almost changed Tuesday. Senior outside hitter Ellie McKenney recorded 17 kills, 39 digs and three aces, while senior middle hitter Laura Holland had 18 kills and three blocks for Sacred Heart, which lost to King in last seasons’s FAA Tournament final.
“We played really well, especially in the first two games,” said McKenney, a co-captain. “We cut down on our unforced errors the first two games. I’m really proud of my team, especially with how we played today against a great team like King. “This match shows what we can do and what our potential is if we played like we did the first two games.”
TIGHT FIFTH SET
Trailing 12-10, the Tigers closed to within one point on Holland’s tip at the net. The Vikings, however, won the next point, and with the score 14-12 later in the game, sealed the win on Conheeney’s kill.
“It’s definitely a huge, huge win,” said Vikings senior tri-captain/libero Stephanie Costabile, who notched 55 digs. “It shows that we can’t let down, we have to keep it going and we have to work together. This shows how hard we worked for it.”
EVENING THE SCORE
The Vikings tied the match at 2-2 by gaining momentum in the fourth set. A kill by junior Christine Nelli (14 kills, seven digs), followed by a block from Robinowitz gave the visitors a 13-6 lead. Robinowitz’s ace put King on top, 18-9.
“They were really good,” Wheeler said. “They had strong hitters and they were playing scrappy defense. The five-setter showed it. The fourth set, we were so pumped up after winning the third set, we knew we were going to win it. They came out strong, so we had to fight to win.”
TIGERS TAKE THE LEAD
Before King won the third game, Sacred Heart won the first two. Trailing 8-7, the Tigers won 10 straight point to seize a comfortable 17-8 advantage in the opening game. McKenney posted two kills during the run, while Holland, who closed out the set with a kill, exhibited strong play at the net.
“Laura has been great at net, she’s done a fantastic job,” Tigers coach Beth Wilson-Jordan said. “Ellie’s digging and serving was great.”
The second set saw Sacred Heart erase a 19-14 deficit. Sophomore Kellie Ulmer closed out the set for the home team by serving an ace. Holland, McKenney and Magdalena Dutkowska each had key kills during the comeback.
In the third set, Sacred Heart was on the cusp of dealing King a rare defeat, holding a 21-17 lead. But King stormed back behind Robinowitz’s effective serving. Kills from Nelli and Robinowitz ended the third game.
“King had a lot of positive momentum and a lot of positive energy,” Wilson-Jordan said. “That’s the first set they’ve ever lost against us in four years, so that says something about how well we played.”
Junior Natalia Pazos had 20 assists, 26 digs and five kills and junior Sofia Piriz added 16 assists and eight digs for the Tigers (4-3).
“I told our team this is a championship team we’re playing,” Tran said. “This is the team we have to overcome in our league.”
“We hope to see them again in the finals,” Wheeler said. “We know they are going to come back and be hungry for a win against us.”
KING 3, SACRED HEART 2
KING 13 23 25 25 15
SACRED HEART 25 25 22 16 12