TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — Already down a set, and already at the realization that their Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division championship chase stood in peril, the host Lady Eagles finally began to soar.
And, in stringing together several stretches of consecutive points on Tuesday night, the Eastern High School volleyball team remains in the immediate hunt for the TVC-Hocking title.
Eastern improved to .500 on the year, both overall and in the league, by turning back Belpre 20-25, 25-11, 25-17 and 25-9 at Eastern High School in Meigs County.
The Lady Eagles are now 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the TVC-Hocking, having already lost league contests at defending champion Waterford and also at Trimble.
Belpre’s Golden Eagles are now 2-7 overall — and 2-2 in the TVC-Hocking.
But Belpre had Eastern in a one-game hole on Tuesday, before the Eagles’ aggression started to show —and they began attacking the net much better.
In addition, after a mistake-prone and sloppily-played first game, Eastern was the one forcing frustration upon the Golden Eagles.
“I’m proud of the girls. They let that first game go and we used it as a learning tool. We pushed on and came out with a win and that’s all that matters,” said Eastern coach Katie Williams. “And we really needed this one too. In between sets one and two, we (coaching staff) really reiterated to them how many unforced errors that we had and what the score actually could have been. I really hammered them on making playable balls and where Belpre’s defense was and hitting the open hitting lanes.”
The Eagles attacked the gaps in the Golden Eagles’ defense for the majority of the final three games, as Katlyn Barber and Mackenzie Brooks finished with 11 kills apiece.
Morgain Little and Allison Barber boasted seven kills apiece, as Barber also accounted for three solo blocks.
Morgan Baer amassed 41 assists as the setter and also served for four aces, as Katlyn Barber had a pair of aces in addition to nine digs.
“We told the girls what open shots that they had, and they took it upon themselves to attack hard and make sure they were putting the ball where the defenders weren’t,” said Williams. “We work on that all the time in practice. It’s not just something that they did on a whim. We practice it all the time and we put it into play.”
Eastern actually erased a 12-9 deficit in game one with three straight points to force a 12-12 tie, as the set was also tied at 1-1, 5-5, 13-13, 14-14, 15-15, 16-16 and 19-19.
The Lady Eagles led 19-16 on an Abbie Hawley ace, but Belpre ran off eight consecutive points — and nine of the final 10 to take the opener 25-20.
However, Eastern was the club reeling off those straight service points the rest of the way.
It scored seven straight in game two to break a 1-1 tie, then six in a row made it 19-6.
Belpre scored four straight to trim the deficit in half, but the Eagles ended up with the final three points, including a kill by Brooks and a block by Katlyn Barber.
In the third game, Eastern erased a 1-0 deficit and a 2-2 tie with three straight points, opening up a 10-3 advantage on a Katlyn Barber ace.
The Orange and Black scored four of the next five to get within 11-7, but another series of six straight swelled the lead to 19-8 on a Golden Eagle attack error.
Belpre put together strings of four and three points to get as close as 23-17, but an Allison Barber block-kill combined with a Little kill ended that game.
In the fourth set, Belpre built leads of 3-0 and 5-2, but the Eagles scored a dozen consecutive and never looked back.
Another five-out-of-six stretch made it 19-6, capped off by an ace by Alexus Metheney.
Belpre got no closer than 21-9, with Eastern scoring the final four points, including the match-winner on a kill by Baer.
“When you trade points, it’s hard to gain the momentum that you need to finish strong. When we were getting three, four, five-point runs, the girls got excited and you could see Belpre was getting frustrated,” said Williams. “We capitalized on that.”
Indeed Eastern did, and for now, remains right there on the cusp of the championship chase in the TVC-Hocking.
Eastern returns home, and returns to TVC-Hocking Division action, on Thursday night against archrival Southern.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106