Western eliminates Peebles in five-set match –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
A very successful season for first-year head coach Rachel Sims and her Peebles Lady Indians varsity volleyball squad came to an abrupt end on Oct. 19 as the Lady Indians hosted another tribe of Lady Indians, from Western Latham High School, in a Division IV sectional championship match.
It looked for all intents and purposes that the Peebles girls were going to claim the sectional title as they took a 2-1 lead after the third set, but Western rallied from behind to steal this one away from the home team, going the full five sets for the 25-21, 16-25, 17-25, 25-17, 15-9 victory.
“This was a tough one and our girls played their hearts out,” said Coach Sims in her postgame radio interview. “That’s all you can ask for. We just had trouble slowing Western down when they were set up to hit, that’s when we seemed to dig ourselves a hole.”
“We kind of knew where they were going to go with the ball so we tried our best to cover and I couldn’t ask for a better group of players than my back row. They seem to get their hands on balls so our setter can then do her job. It’s beautiful when they are all working together.”
The opening set of this sectional title match began quite well for the home team as they raced to a 9-1 lead behind the strong serving of junior Madison Pierce. Peebles maintained that lead until Western went on a six-point run with Jordyn Haggy serving to even the set at 14 all. After the visitors took their first lead at 16-15, Peebles came back with a Josie Myers kill to go back in front. A kill by Western’s Shalee Gray gave the lead back to Western and they didn’t give it up, though Peebles did rally to tie at 21 on two service points from Kylie Sims, but Western grabbed the set’s final four points to win 25-21 and go up 1-0 in the match.
The second set was memorable in a couple of ways for the Peebles girls, one, they won the set, and two, senior setter Baylee Justice made history as she picked up her 2,000th career assist, solidifying her spot as the all-time record holder in school history.
“Baylee is an amazing girl, on and off the court,” said Coach Sims. “She was our leader and the girls respected her and we will definitely miss her.”
The home side went up 6-4 on a pair of service points from Hope Brown and later stretched the lead to 10-6 behind the serves of Christian Reed. With the set later even at 15 apiece, Peebles reeled off seven straight, including three service aces from Sims to take control. After regaining the side out, the home team scored the set’s last three points, one coming on a perfectly placed tip return from Tatum Arey, and a 25-16 win for Peebles evened the match at one each.
Volleyball is a sport where momentum can shift quickly and it had now shifted to the home team as the Peebles girls jumped to a big 11-2 advantage in the third set behind some strong serves from the sophomore Brown. After grabbing that momentum, Peebles kept it through the set, never allowing Western closer than three points, and with Sims and her laser serves leading the way, a 25-17 win in set three put the host Lady Indians in position to claim the sectional crown, but that momentum thing can be an odd bird as the fourth set would show.
It was the Western girls with their backs to the wall who grabbed the “mo” back and took a quick 12-3 advantage in set four. Peebles made one run with Madison Beekman serving to close the gap to 16-10, but could get no closer. With Carigan Haggy controlling the service line and the net, a kill by Kylie Tong was the final point in a 25-17 fourth set win for Western that forced the match into a fifth and deciding set.
Fifth sets in volleyball matches leave little margin for error, and the two teams remained close with Western taking the first advantage at 5-3. After a kill by Reed closed the gap to one, the visitors took control with four consecutive points to move in front 9-4.
Peebles stayed close on kills by Myers and Pierce, but saw their season slip away when Western got kills from Gray and Carigan Haggy to win the fifth set 15-9 and take the match 3-2.
Though the loss was disappointing, it did nothing to overshadow a fine season for the Peebles girls, who finished at 16-7, and combined with a 22-0 JV squad, the future of Peebles volleyball looks very bright.
On the down side, Peebles says goodbye to a pair of seniors in Justice and Myers, both of whom played integral roles in the squad’s 2017 successes.
“Josie really stepped up her game this year, probably played better this year than I have ever seen her play,” added Coach Sims. “She is super aggressive and super strong and really played that net well for us this season.”