by Tom Utescher
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy was eager to welcome George School to the Vare Field House for last Tuesday’s volleyball match. In the middle of September, the SCH Blue Devils had logged their first victory of the 2017 campaign when they visited George’s Cougars and claimed a 3-1 win.
It took the locals a little longer to defeat the Bucks County club in last week’s rematch, but the Blue Devils eventually prevailed, 3-2, winning the fifth game at 15-11. They raised their record to 3-6 overall while remaining 0-4 against Inter-Ac League rivals.
Host SCH trailed much of the time in the opening set last Tuesday, but never by more than a few points. Relatively late in the first round the Devils were down, 19-21, then they got a side-out on a hit by junior Jill McGrath. Sophomore Katie Reagan rotated to the back line and served out the set.
Her first serve was unreturned, and after a cross-court kill by fellow 10th-grader Julia Hannigan, George School hit the ball out across the endline. The Cougars called time-out, now trailing 23-21. SCH got to the brink of set point with a scoring tip by senior Kayla McTamney, and when the Cougars tried a tip of their own, the ball went out over the right sideline and the home side won the set, 25-21.
The visitors seized the early initiative once more in the second set and went up by as many as five points, at 16-11. The Blue Devils fought their way back into it, eventually catching up at 18-all when freshman Maya Gerlach made a kill from the middle of the front row.
McTamney was serving at the time, and after SCH pulled even, she sent across three serves that George could not return, and a Cougars error on a fourth sequence had the hosts ahead, 22-18. The visitors answered with a little run of their own that tied things up at 22-all.
The serve came back to Springside Chestnut Hill thanks to an illegal rotation by George School, and then the Cougars sent a hit over the baseline to go down 22-24. On an SCH hit by Gerlach, the Cougars had a chance to get the ball back over the barrier, but it got snagged in the net tape and the Blue Devils came away with a 25-22 win.
They had now taken a 2-0 lead in the overall match, but it hadn’t been easy. From a 10-10 tie in the third set, the Cougars took command with a 7-0 run, and this time they didn’t let the Devils back in. The visitors won by the widest margin of any of the five games, 25-15.
On a roll, George School went up 15-8 in the fourth to force an SCH time-out, and later the Cougars were ready to wrap up the set as they attained a 24-13 advantage. The Blue Devils then showed some grit as they staved off defeat for quite a while.
Two kills by McGrath and one by sophomore Hannah Cohen were mixed in with a number of George School errors as the home team ran off nine straight points to close the gap to two, 22-24. George School finally came up with a kill to finish this segment, but although the Blue Devils’ rally fell short, it had to boost their confidence.
Nevertheless, they maintained their pattern of falling behind their guests in the early phase of a set. In the short fifth round (the winning number is 15 instead of 25), George School went up 8-4. Over the next few minutes, the Cougars slipped up and made some errors, and SCH’s Reagan scored a true service ace that helped level the count at 9-9.
Two more miscues by the Cougars moved the hosts ahead, but then on an attempted set, the Blue Devils sent the ball up into the net instead of alongside it, making it a one-point affair, 11-10. The Devils soon had the serve back though, and the visitors could not handle McGrath’s first service as SCH moved to 13-10.
A carry called against George School brought up the first match point, but the Cougars fought it off, scoring on a block. The Blue Devils answered in kind, with Gerlach’s refusal to allow the ball over the net clinching a 15-11 win for the home team.