The Oglethorpe volleyball team had an eventful first day at their very own Stormy Petrel Challenge in Dorough Field House, defeating Belhaven 3-0 before falling in a 5-set thriller to in-state opponent Piedmont in the night cap. The results moved the Stormy Petrels to 1-1 to start the season.
The day started with the Petrels taking the floor on the Blacktop for their first official match against the Belhaven Blazers. The Petrels outplayed the visitors from Mississippi throughout the match and came away with a 3-0 victory, winning 25-16, 25-20, 25-22.
The home team got out to a huge lead in the first set, going on a 16-5 run to begin the match. The Blazers ran off six of the next seven to cut the Oglethorpe lead to six points, 17-11, but Oglethorpe restored order and traded points with Belhaven for a time. The Petrels led 21-15 later in the set and then finished the opening stanza on a 4-1 run to close it out, 25-16.
The second set had more of a back-and-forth feel to it, with both teams taking small leads over the first half of the stanza. Belhaven pushed out to a 17-15 advantage, but the Petrels responded with a 5-1 run, pushing to a 2-point lead of their own, 20-18. Oglethorpe pulled away from there, building to a 25-20 victory in the set.
The third and final set saw the Blazers push out to an early 3-point lead. They led 9-6, but the Petrels responded with four points in a row to take a 10-9 lead. Belhaven answered back by building a 2-point advantage of their own, but Oglethorpe was able to slowly turn the set in their favor. Belhaven tied it up at 21-21 with back-to-back points, but the home side finished four of the next five for the 25-22 match-clinching win.
The Petrels had excellent contribuitions from all parts of the team. Sophomore outside hitter Santreece Stephens hit .364 for the match and tallied 10 kills, while fellow sophomore outside hitter Savanna Hockman and sophomore right-side hitter Evan Furst finished with seven each. Sophomore libero Anna Rash finished with 18 digs while junior setter Jordan Jones passed out 17 assists.
"I was very pleased with our performance against a very tough Belhaven team," said Oglethorpe head coach Richie Tang. "We had great contributions on the offensive side of the ball from Santreece, Evan and Savanna. We were able to really turn defensive digs into offense, also, and that was very good to see. On defense, Anna Rash did a stellar job from the libero position."
The Petrels took a set lead twice in their night cap against Piedmont. However, the Lions came back both times and took the decisive fifth set, as well, defeating the Petrels 20-25, 25-12, 18-25, 25-23, 15-12.
Oglethorpe got off to a fantastic start in the first set, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. Though the Lions came all the way back to within a point over the course of the stanza, trailing just 19-18 late in the set, the Petrels responded with a run to eventually put the visitors away, 25-20.
Piedmont responded to take the second set 25-12, but Oglethorpe answered right back in the third. The score was 11-11 early in the set, but the Petrels used a 5-1 run to build a 16-12 advantage. The Lions pulled back to within a pair, 17-15, but the Petrels pulled away from there, running off five straight to push their advantage to 22-15, then finishing the set with a 3-1 mini-run.
The Petrels had a chance to put the match away in the fourth set. The Lions led virtually the entire stanza by a small margin, but the Petrels began to come back late and tied the score 23-23. However, Piedmont finished off back-to-back points to win the set 25-23 and advance proceedings to the fifth and final set.
The fifth did not get off to a great start for the Petrels. Piedmont got out to an early 5-2 lead and eventually pushed that to 8-4, putting themselves in the driver's seat in the abbreviated fifth set. The home team responded, though, coming back to tie and eventually take an 11-10 lead. However, three straight points gave Piedmont a 13-11 edge. The Petrels pulled to within a point, but Piedmont won the next two to clinch the match with a 15-12 win in the final set.
Stephens and Hockman finished with eight kills apiece in the Piedmont match, while Jones collected 18 assists and 15 digs. Rash pulled 15 digs of her own against the Lions, as well.
"I thought we had great energy to start the first set," said Tang, "but once we crossed over for the second, we were kind of flat. We played well in the third set, putting ourselves in position to win, but we had a very difficult lesson to learn tonight. If we have an opportunity to close out the match in the fourth set, we have to go get it. A lot of credit goes to that Piedmont team for their fight and their willingness to work for every point. We can't pout about this loss because we play our next match in a few hours. We'll put it past us and focus on a solid Keystone team."
The Petrels will take part in Day 2 of the Stormy Petrel Challenge on Saturday at Dorough Field House. They'll take on Keystone at noon and then go against Transylvania at 4 p.m. Keystone went 0-2 on Day 1 with losses to Transylvania and Belhaven, while Transylvania went 2-0 with victories over Keystone and Piedmont. Belhaven will play Transylvania at 10 a.m. and Piedmont at 2 p.m., while Piedmont will play Keystone at 6 p.m. to round out the day.