The Oglethorpe volleyball team enjoyed an excellent day Saturday as the Stormy Petrel Challenge wound to a close. They first swept Keystone 3-0, then knocked off a very good Transylvania team that had been undefeated on the weekend to that point. The Stormy Petrels came back from a 2-1 deficit against the Pioneers to take the fourth and fifth sets, winning 3-2. The two victories improved the Petrels to 3-1 to start the 2016 campaign.
The Petrels lost a 5-set match to Piedmont Friday night and Transylvania had cruised through the tournament leading up to their late afternoon match with Oglethorpe, losing just a single set over their previous three matches. After the home team won a barn-burner of a first set, 29-27, the Pioneers responded with back-to-back sets, taking the second 25-21 and the third 25-17. That put the Petrels in a tough spot, needing to win each of the final two stanzas, but the fourth set started in a highly competitive fashion. The Petrels jumped out to a 6-2 lead, but Transylvania responded with a run of their own, tying the score 9-9. As the two teams traded points back and forth, the visitors slowly built a 14-12 edge. The Petrels responded in a big way, though, embarking on an 8-2 run to push out to a 20-16 lead. The Pioneers would not go to a decisive fifth set quietly, going on a 4-0 mini-run of their own to tie the score 21-21. However, the Petrels ran off the next four points to finish off the set 25-21 and go to a fifth set.
Oglethorpe got off to a 3-0 lead to start the fifth, but Transylvania responded and tied it back up 6-6. From there, though, Oglethorpe went on a huge run to put the match away. They outscored the Pioneers 9-2 after the visitors tied the set, coasting to a 15-8 win and a 3-2 comeback win in the match.
The first set was back and forth early, but Oglethorpe built a 19-15 advantage after an 8-3 mini-run. Transylvania scored four straight points to tie the set 21-21, then went on to take a 24-23 lead, giving themselves set point. The Petrels then bounced back and had two set points of their own before Transylvania finished two in a row and got to a second set point at 27-26. However, the Petrels responded with three points in a row to take down the opening set 29-27.
The Petrels accumulated six total blocks as a team over the course of the match, picking up one solo and 10 assisted blocks. Sophomore middle hitter Halli Nelson had the solo block and assisted in two others, while sophomore right-side hitter Evan Furst and sophomore middle hitter Ashlee Tolbert assisted in three blocks each. Freshman outside hitter Alex Prots came off the bench to deliver five kills and 15 digs while sophomore outside hitter Santreece Stephens led the team with 13 kills and junior middle hitter Kaitlyn Woodruff had 12 kills and hit .423 for the match. Sophomore libero Anna Rash contributed a team-high 18 digs. Both Stephens and Rash earned spots on the All-Stormy Petrel Challenge Team for their efforts.
"We knew coming into the tournament that Transylvania was a very well-coached team with outstanding players," said Oglethorpe head coach Richie Tang. "They were undefeated in the tournament up until this match. I thought our defense really stood out and managed to dig several well-hit balls. We got some great sparks off the bench from Taryn North and Alex Prots. Santreece once again had a tremendous match and Kaitlyn did an excellent job in executing our scout. I do think the big number that stands out in the match is our team high six total blocks."
Oglethorpe swept away Keystone in their first match of the day. The first set started out very well for the visiting Giants, as they pushed out to an 8-4 advantage. The Petrels responded very well, however.
They ran off four consecutive points to tie the set 8-8. Keystone came back with three of their own to go back ahead 11-8, but from there, the Petrels started to slowly pull away. They went on a 7-3 mini-run to take a 15-14 lead. Then, after the Giants quickly took the lead back with consecutive points, the Petrels answered with five straight points to take a 21-17 lead. Keystone pulled it back to within two at 22-20 and held off consecutive set points starting at 24-20, but the Petrels eventually put the set away 25-22.
After the tough opening set, the Petrels cruised to victories over the next two. They began the second set on an 11-4 run and put it totally out of reach with a streak of six straight later on in the set, building a 21-9 advantage en route to a 25-13 win.
The third set saw a 6-point run from Keystone give them a 6-3 advantage. The Petrels immediately responded with a 4-0 run of their own, taking the lead back at 7-6. They then used an 8-1 run to push out to a 16-10 lead and extended their advantage to 21-13 with a 5-0 run. From there, they closed out the match with a 25-17 third-set win.
Stephens again led the squad with 15 kills, hitting .294 in the process. Rash contributed 15 digs, as well, while freshman setter Brianna Hernandez led the squad with 13 assists.
"We really started sluggish against a Keystone team that perennially finishes in the top two of their conference," said Tang. "However, I thought that was a great thing for us to go through from the Piedmont match the previous night. We were down a few points but we did not panic and that's huge for a team with just three juniors as our upperclass. Santreece played great in this match, she was able to attack all the things that we work on in practice. Again, the key is our defense making extra plays to help our offense run a smooth as possible."
The 3-1 Petrels will now get set for their second weekend-long tournament in a row, as they'll travel to Lynchburg, Virginia, next Friday and Saturday for the Lynchburg College Invitational. While there, they'll take on host Lynchburg, Methodist, Randolph and Maryville (Tennessee).