The Oglethorpe volleyball team secured a tie for sixth place in the SAA Sunday afternoon with a thrilling comeback victory over Millsaps at Dorough Field House. The Stormy Petrels came back from being down a set twice in a 3-2 victory over the Majors that improved Oglethorpe to 10-18 on the season overall heading into their final regular season game against Huntingdon on Thursday, and secured their highest-ever SAA finish with a final mark of 3-11 in league play.
Down 2-1 headed to the fourth set, the Petrels found themselves behind the 8-ball against the Majors, looking to avoid a season sweep at the hands of their opponents from Mississippi. They began their comeback at that point, though, pushing out to a 6-3 lead and extending that to 10-5 with a 4-point run. The Majors came back to make it 12-10, but the Petrels pushed it back out with another 4-point run, making it 16-10. A 4-2 Millsaps stretch cut it to 18-14, but three consecutive points put Oglethorpe ahead 21-14. Three straight Millsaps points pulled them to within four, 21-17, but a 3-1 run gave the Petrels set point at 24-18. The Majors wouldn't go quietly, reeling off four straight points to make it 24-22, but the Petrels put the set away, 25-22, and forced a decisive fifth set.
In the fifth, the Petrels rolled out to a 7-2 lead in the first-to-15 stanza. The Majors came back with a 4-1 run to make it 8-6, but Oglethorpe used a 6-point run to all but put it away, achieving match point at 14-6. The Majors rallied with four straight of their own, but the Petrels finished it off 15-10 and closed out the match 3-2.
Millsaps jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the match, winning the first and third sets. After a period of trading points early on in the first, they pushed out to a 15-10 advantage with a 5-1 run. The Petrels responded with a 5-point run of their own, tying the score at 16-16. They went on to take a 21-19 lead with a 3-point run, but Millsaps responded back with a 6-point run, closing the set 25-21.
The Petrels came back in the second, jumping out to an 8-1 lead. The Majors responded with seven consecutive to pull to within two and eventually tied it, 11-11. The Petrels embarked on a 9-1 run to take their advantage back out to 20-12, though, and scored three in a row moments later to make it 23-14. They eventually closed the stanza with a 25-17 win, tying the match.
The third set was all Millsaps at the start, as they rolled out to an 11-3 advantage. A 4-point Oglethorpe run pulled it back to within four, 14-10 and they continued with a 7-2 stretch that made it 18-17 Millsaps. The Majors scored three in a row to make it 22-18, though, and eventually closed out the set 25-22.
The Petrels were led offensively by junior middle hitter Kaitlyn Woodruff, who collected 14 kills, 12 digs and five blocks, hitting .234 in the process. Junior setter Jordan Jones passed out a team-high 35 assists and pulled 16 digs, while sophomore libero Anna Rash led all Petrels with 34 digs. Freshman defensive specialist Taryn North had 32 digs while freshman defensive specialist Alex Prots had 23 and fellow freshman defensive specialist Brianna Hernandez recorded 16. Sophomore middle hitter Ashlee Tolbert recorded nine kills and made five blocks while sophomore right-side hitter Evan Furst recorded a match-high eight blocks.
"Today was a great bounce-back match from our loss yesterday," said Oglethorpe head coach Richie Tang. "I thought our defense really gave us some great plays and energy and that, in turn, helped us to run a dynamic offense. We stress defense to offense all the time and to see it working was great for our team. There were a lot of contributions made defensively by Anna, Taryn and Alex, as well as Evan, Ashlee and Kaitlyn on the front line. Offensively, Jordan did a great job distributing to the right players today. I'm really pleased with the offensive efforts from Kaitlyn, Ashlee, Santreece, Savanna and Evan. It was a great team effort against an always-tough Millsaps team that's had our number the past few years. The last time we beat them was Nov. 2009, so that was a great streak to break and build upon for us."
The Petrels have one more regular season match remaining, as they'll go against Huntingdon Thursday night at 7 p.m. from the Blacktop at Dorough Field House. After that, they'll travel to Conway, Arkansas, for the SAA Tournament beginning Friday, Nov. 4. Millsaps won the tiebreaker over the Petrels for the sixth seed based on sets taken in matches between the two teams (5-3), so Oglethorpe will hold the No. 7 seed and will go against second-seeded Birmingham-Southern in the tournament's opening round.