COBDEN – Cobden continued to make volleyball history Wednesday night before its hometown fans when the Appleknockers knocked off the defending fourth place team NCOE in three sets to win its first sectional title and advance to the Farina South Central 1A Super-Sectional.
“Oh my gosh, that’s what volleyball is all about,” said Cobden coach Nathan Emrick. “I thought our girls came out in the third set and made a statement early, but we knew NCOE wasn’t going away. We luckily got the ball to bounce our way last by putting the pressure on them.”
Cobden (26-11) will play the defending third place team Stewardson-Strasburg at 6 p.m. on Friday. NCOE finished with a 29-4 record.
“”We’re in unknown territory, so I will have to go back to softball days to know what this is going to be like, but we’re going to enjoy this tonight and will worry about Stew-Straus tomorrow,” Emrick said.
Cobden won the first set in dominating fashion, 25-17. NCOE turned it around and routed the Appleknockers in the second set, 25-11.
In that second set the Appleknockers trailed 22-7, but closed out strong scoring three of the next four points on two kills by senior Megan Rhodes, a kill by senior Meredith Flamm and an ace by junior Elle Mason to give Cobden something positive to take into the winner-take-all third set.
The small run at the end of the second worked as the Appleknockers scored the first four points on an error by sophomore middle hitter Halle Everett followed by back-to-back kills from the left side by Flamm and an ace by Rhodes.
Cobden extended it lead to 8-3 on two kills each by Flamm and senior Alaina Hartline forcing NCOE to call a timeout. Hartline and Flamm finished with nine kills each.
When play resumed senior Grace Schroeder served up an ace to extend the lead to six, but then Fighting Cardinals caught their second wind going on a 9-3 run to take its first lead of the third set, 12-11.
Both teams kept battling with the score going back and forth. Cobden took the lead 17-16 on an ace by senior libero Brooke Bailey, but Everett’s slam from the middle knotted the score for the seventh time in the set at 17-17.
“We knew we had to get a middle attack and not just a tip attack like we’d been running, but an actual good swing,” Emrick said. “They were keying on our outside so much if we were able to run that quick in the middle Alaina would be able to get a good swing. And that’s what you expect from your seniors.
Hartline gave the Appleknockers the lead on a smash from the middle for his ninth of the match.
“They have a pretty big middle, so I did what I had to do not to get blocked and get it down,” Hartline said. “I could feel the momentum shift and having a huge crowd here helped.”
Schroeder then went behind the service line for the fifth time. Her first three times in the first and second set lasted just one serve and her first fourth resulted in three points, including an ace.
Flamm got her off to a good start with a smash from the left side for her ninth kill with all but one coming from the left. Schroeder then served up her second ace to extend the lead to 20-17.
“We couldn’t doubt ourselves at this point since we’ve been practicing this since June, so I had confidence in myself and took a rip at it,” Flamm said.
At the point NCOE called another timeout, but this time it didn’t work as NCOE committed four consecutive errors extend Schroeder’s success to six straight points to give the Appleknockers match point, 24-17. In the semifinal the senior had a streak of 14 straight successful serves.
“I saw my holes open again and I was ready to hit them,” Schroeder said. “It was nice to be in that position again to win the match.”
A double hit foul kept Cobden clinching sending Everett behind the line. A kill by Evie Duncan kept the rally going followed by an ace by Everett and another kill by Duncan to cut the lead 24-21.
“At the end our passing was off and we couldn’t get back into system,” said NCOE coach Jaclyn Melton. “When you’re not attacking Cobden they are going to attack you so we were on the defense and that’s wasn’t what we wanted.”
Emrick called a timeout and a minute later Everett went back behind line. She bounced the ball once and then went for it all with a hard serve aimed at Bailey in the back row, who at the last second stepped aside letting the ball land out of bounds to end the set and the match on the Fighting Cardinals 10 unforced error of the third set and 20th of the match.
“I play the back row every single point of every single game and I know my court well, so I could tell it was over my head and it was out with no doubt in my mind,” Bailey said.