VOLLEYBALL: Peotone rallies for three-set victory over Grant Park
GRANT PARK — Grant Park was just two points away from a season-opening victory.
Then, Peotone began having flashbacks to Tuesday’s third-set loss to Bishop McNamara and turned everything around.
Trailing 23-17, the potential nightmare turned into utter joy as the Blue Devils strung together its most impressive run of the early season and pulled out a three-set thriller over the Dragons 25-17, 20-25 and 27-25 on Thursday.
“Early on we were just hanging around and doing enough to get by,” Peotone coach Kathy Barger said. “We played not to lose in the second set, but were still able to turn it on late and rally. Hopefully, we can keep that last game mindset moving forward.”
Peotone’s Mallory Schlinger set the tone from the opening serve for the Blue Devils and aced two of her first four serves for a quick 4-0 lead.
Following a string of kills from Malya Sayre and an Emily Moe kill that gave Peotone a 14-11 lead, Grant Park responded with three straight points capped by a kill from Madison Meherg to tie the game.
However, it was all Peotone from that point, as the Blue Devils rocketed on an 11-3 run with Grace Hessler serving up three aces in the final four points for the win.
“We were in a really nice rhythm,” Barger said. “The energy was there, and the team was completely synced. The serving was on point, and Malya Sayre also played a nice set with some nice kills. She’s come on nicely as a young player and has great timing at the net.”
Grant Park had no intentions of being swept on its home floor and its season opener.
Therefore, the Dragons turned up the heat.
After taking a 2-1 lead, they didn’t look back and Peotone showed to have no answer as the kitchen began to heat up.
Kassidy Tierney launched an ace to give Grant Park an 8-3 lead that forced the Blue Devils to call timeout and regroup.
As the lead continued to balloon 12-4 and later to 19-11, Peotone began to show signs of life, scoring nine of the next 13 points that cut the lead to 23-20. But the comeback wasn’t meant to be, as the Dragons closed the deal.
“(Grant Park) was picking up on a lot of stuff,” Barger said. “We kept attacking, but they were there at every point. We kept fighting and made a rally, but they got us. They did a really nice job.”
Not over yet
That momentum carried into the final set, and Grant Park’s flame was getting hotter and hotter by the point.
It jumped to a quick 7-2 lead, before pushing it up to 14-8. Schlinger helped keep the Blue Devils afloat with back-to-back kills over a 4-0 run that closed to gap to 14-12.
Grant Park pieced together a 9-5 run to put itself ahead 23-17 and ready to close the game out.
That’s when Hessler stepped back to serve for Peotone and everything changed. Breathing new energy into the team, she tallied two more aces and led the Blue Devils on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 23.
“Adrenaline definitely kicked in,” Hessler said. “I kept looking at (Grant Park’s) players and where they lined up. I was serving seams and floating the ball in as well. I pounded a few serves out of bounds earlier, so I mixed it up and served short instead.”
With the game tied at 23, 24 and then 25, Schlinger got the kill followed by Sayre getting a block on a kill attempt to complete the Peotone come-from-behind victory.
“We didn’t want to lose the same way we did to Bishop McNamara,” Hessler said. “Although we were a little rocky in the beginning, we knew that we were and are a strong team. We trusted each other and coming back in this game shows what we can do moving forward.”
Hessler finished her night with 17 digs and five aces to lead Peotone, and Paige Peterson had 10 digs.
McKenna Evans logged 26 assists and five digs, and Mallory Schliner led the team with 13 kills and added four digs and four aces.
Both teams are back in action at home on Tuesday. Peotone hosts Central while Grant Park welcomes Kankakee to town.