In the 2018 Section 6A Tournament, the Brandon-Evansville volleyball team trailed the second-seeded Henning Hornets by two sets.
After rallying to even the match after winning the third and fourth sets, the Chargers beat the Hornets 15-10 in the fifth to advance to the subsection championship against Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley. Henning saw its season come to an end in shocking fashion.
After a long offseason, Henning (4-0) beat B-E (3-1) 3-0 on Tuesday night to avoid another comeback loss.
“It’s exciting to get one back from last year. It was kind of a revenge game for us,” Henning head coach Kristy Finck said. “We know they’re one of our toughest competitions this year in our subsection. It’s great to come here and win like this.”
The Hornets jumped out to a 7-1 lead at the beginning of the first set. B-E slowly closed the gap before Bailey Schaefer’s kill tied the game 16-16.
Henning went on another run. Megan Rinicker served six consecutive points to put the Hornets up 24-18. The Chargers got a point back before dropping the set 25-19.
“They have options all the way around the court,” B-E head coach Kelly Olson said. “They’ve got a solid five hitters, and their setter is really good. They pass the ball really well. Henning is very fundamentally sound.”
Henning jumped out to a five-point advantage at the beginning of the second set. The Chargers slowly fought their way back again before tying it with a blocking point from Brittany Korkowski and Haddey Zastrow.
B-E took its first lead of the match the following point – forcing Henning to take a timeout. Coming out of the break, Henning won three straight points to take an 18-16 lead.
“It all comes down to passing,” Olson said. “You can’t shoot yourself in the foot. It’s about putting the ball down when you get a chance to and being efficient when you can be. We served three out in the last seven-or-eight points of set two and things like that turn the tide.”
With the thought of last fall in their minds, the Hornets made sure there wouldn’t be another comeback on Tuesday night. Henning took an 11-3 lead before extending it to 17-8 in the third.
“I think our passing broke down,” Olson said. “We didn’t get the ball to the setter and sent too many free balls over. When you send free balls over it’s like giving the other team points, especially a team that’s good.”
Sloppy play from the Chargers solidified the Hornets’ sweep with a 25-13 third-set win.
“It’s a confidence booster, for sure,” Finck said. “My girls have this drive to win, and they stay focused through every point. I think that the third game was crucial for us.”
Despite the loss, the Evansville gym was packed with fans from both sides. It was a playoff atmosphere in September. Olson and Finck spoke after the match about how each team grew from this meeting.
“We thought that tonight made us both better,” Olson said. “They’re probably the top team in the section. It’s important to have nights like this because not every match is going to be that intense. When you get to the end of the season, you have that experience.”
Finck was adamant that the Chargers are going to be a tough team to beat in the postseason.
“We were back and forth those first two sets and obviously pulled away in the third,” Finck said. “I would hate to come back here and play them again tomorrow or the next day. They’re going to get better every time we play them. Kelly has a very good squad with very disciplined players.”
Even though they were swept, the Chargers remained competitive in the first two sets. The bitter taste of losing at home to a section contender is something that Olson wants his team to hang on to.
“The girls have talked about being mentally tough,” Olson said. “We can look back at that third set and learn from it. We can push through that and not let things get through to us. Tonight may give them a little chip on their shoulder. They’ll probably carry this with them through the playoffs.”