CENTENARY, Ohio — The Lady Tigers had a lot more luck at being rewarded by the Great Pumpkin than Linus van Pelt ever dreamed of.
Visiting Circleville overcame a 2-1 match deficit and rallied back from a 7-3 deficit in Game 5 to claim a thrilling 11-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-15, 15-12 victory over the Gallia Academy volleyball team on Wednesday night during a Division II Southeast sectional final in Gallia County.
The fifth-seeded Lady Tigers (14-9) and the fourth-seeded Blue Angels (19-5) battled through 30 ties and 21 lead changes over the course of five games, and each squad held a lead in every one of the five sets played.
Host GAHS ultimately outscored Circleville by five points (100-95) by the end of the night, but the Red and Black shook off an ill-fated Game 1 effort to win three of the final four sets while securing a date in the Division II district tournament next week.
Circleville — which is home to the annual Pumpkin Show that officially began Wednesday — started its day by stopping at a local market and purchasing pumpkins, which they later took down to the Gallipolis city park and carved out before the match.
Those pumpkins were then displayed behind the Lady Tigers’ bench on the bleachers … and those offerings apparently worked some favors with the volleyball gods.
Early on, however, it was the Blue and White that carried momentum as the hosts took a permanent lead at 2-1 and broke away from an 11-9 edge with 14 of the final 16 points to claim a 1-0 match lead with the 14-point triumph.
There were seven ties and five lead changes in Game 2, with CHS taking its largest lead at 12-6. The Blue Angels countered with a 10-1 surge for their largest lead at 16-13, but both squads traded points until they reached a 23-all contest.
The Lady Tigers — who trailed 23-21 — reeled off the final four points and ultimately tied the match at one apiece with the minimal 2-point decision.
The middle game was the most contested, with both teams competing through 11 ties and eight lead changes. CHS never led by more than two points in Game 3, while the Blue Angels broke away from a 15-all tie with 10 of the final 14 points en route to a 2-1 match cushion.
There were six ties and three lead changes in Game 4, but GAHS secured its only lead at 6-5. The 10-point decision was the largest lead of the entire match for Circleville, and it helped set up the all-important pivotal fifth game.
CHS jumped out to early leads of 1-0 and 3-1, but the hosts countered with six straight points for a 7-3 advantage — their largest lead in the finale. Circleville rallied to tie things up at 8-all and was again knotted up at 10- and 11-all, but the guests reeled off three straight points to take a 14-11 cushion.
Gallia Academy broke serve to close back to within two points, but the Lady Tigers returned the favor one play later and ultimately left GAHS with a 3-point win and a 3-2 match triumph.
Bailey Barnette and Bella Barnette led the Gallia Academy service attack with 15 points apiece, followed by Jenna Harrison with 11 points and Jalyn Short with eight points. Chanee Cremeens and Regan Wilcoxon also chipped in four and two points, respectively.
Cremeens led the net attack with 22 kills, followed by Bailey Barnette with seven kills and Callie Wilson with six kills. Courtney Corvin also had four kills to go along with a team-best eight blocks. Wilcoxon also dished out 38 assists in the setback.
Circleville — which started all five sets with 1-0 leads — was led by Natalie Keaton with 12 service points, followed by Gabby McConnell and Jordan Rhymer with 10 points each. Morgan Blakeman and Cara Cooper respectively added nine and seven points, while Maggie Gibson completed things with three points.
Blakeman led the CHS net attack with 29 kills and also had four blocks. McConnell chipped in 10 kills and provided a team-high nine blocks.
It was the second straight year in which Gallia Academy was eliminated from postseason play in Game 5 of a sectional final, falling 15-13 last year to Vinton County.
It was the final volleyball game for seniors Bailey Barnette and Bree Cemeni in the Blue and White.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.