The Oglethorpe volleyball team has proved to be a resilient group early in the season, and Wednesday night was no different. The Stormy Petrels fought back from a set down twice on the road in Lookout Mountain, eventually forcing a decisive fifth set. However, the homestanding Covenant Scots prevailed in that frame, going on an 11-2 run to finish it after falling behind 8-4 in the fifth set, outlasting the Petrels 3-2.
In that fifth frame, the Petrels built a 6-2 lead before trading a couple points with the Scots to acquire their 8-4 edge. The Scots ran off six straight, though, followed by another run of three straight, pushing their lead out to 13-9. Oglethorpe cut it to 13-10, but Covenant won back-to-back points from there to secure the fifth set 15-10 and take the match.
That decisive set came after the Petrels rallied from 2-1 down to take the fourth set and tie the match up. After falling behind 8-5 in that frame, the Petrels went on a 6-1 run, highlighted by three kills from junior right-side hitter Evan Furst. They took an 11-9 lead in the set at that point, then went on a 5-1 highlighted by three kills from freshman outside hitter Jacoby Sims to build a 19-14 advantage. The teams traded points for awhile after that and Covenant got as close as 23-20, but the Petrels wouldn't be denied, and Sims finished off the set, 25-20, off an assist from senior setter Jordan Jones.
Sims finished with a match-high 20 kills, 12 digs and 4 blocks. Jones led all participants with 41 assists while recording 16 digs. Furst tallied 14 kills on the evening.
The fourth set marked the second time that Oglethorpe had come from a set down to tie the match, as they did the same in the second. After an even, back-and-forth affair through the first half of the frame, Covenant led 16-15. The Petrels got hot, though, running off six consecutive winners to build a 21-16 lead. The Scots responded in kind, embarking on an 8-2 run to put them on the verge of taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the match, earning set point at 24-23. The Petrels staved off set point, then faced another at 25-24. Sims and junior outside hitter Santreece Stephens, who finished the match with 10 kills, sandwiched a couple winners around a Covenant error, though, and suddenly Oglethorpe tied the match up with a 27-25 victory in the second frame.
Covenant took the first set 25-15 and the third 25-16, though. The Petrels rallied to tie it 12-12 in the first, but the Scots rattled off an 11-2 run to take control of the opening frame. They did the same in the third after Oglethorpe tied it at 8-8, embarking on a 14-4 run to secure the 2-1 lead.
"I thought our effort and enthusiasm were fantastic," said Oglethorpe head coach Joseph Goodson. "Anytime you force a fifth set on the road, you're doing something right. Credit to Covenant, though. They played a little better than we did down the stretch. We're continuing to improve, though, and I'm excited about that. The multiple comebacks go to show that we're a resilient bunch. All these close matches will do nothing but make us tougher as we get to the second half of the season. We could've quit down 2-1 on the road, but we didn't."
The 2-2 Petrels will return home next week for a couple of matches, starting with a matchup against Division II Clark Atlanta Monday at 6:30 p.m. They'll also welcome Piedmont to Dorough Field House for the second time in as many weeks Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"Our plan is to continue to make steps forward," said Goodson. "We want to continue learning and continue playing together and with energy. These next two matches will be another step in that process for us."