Rallying in volleyball from down two games is an exceedingly difficult task.
Even the most overwhelming surge can be offset when scoreboard resets to zeroes in game four or game five. To come back from the brink in volleyball you’ve got to essentially come back three times. You’ve got to have three separate surges in you.
Albemarle had all three in them Monday night, and with a hard-fought 3-2 victory in the Class 5, Region D semifinals, they’re now headed for the state tournament and the region title game.
“At least for the seniors we knew this could be our last game and we talked to the team and we were like ‘play for us’,” said Albemarle senior Katie Schnell. “We didn’t want it to be our last.”
This is, based on the known quantities coming into the season, one of the more unlikely state tournament squads in Albemarle’s program history and the first to punch their ticket since the 2012 edition. They just haven’t stopped improving.
“There were a lot of question marks coming into this season but some people grew and that was the biggest thing,” said Albemarle coach Mark Ragland. “We grew during the match tonight.”
Against a Mountain View team that was giving them almost nothing easy, Albemarle came back from a 2-0 hole that wasn’t even your typical 2-0 hole — it’s not like the Patriots had gotten their doors blown off. They fought tooth and nail in game two and come up short 25-22 as Mountain View seemed to get kill after kill down before Albemarle could even mount a block.
“We could’ve easily gone down and gone home after putting up a great fight in game two,” Ragland said. “When you’ve given everything you’ve got and come up short, sometimes it’s easy to pack it in. They never packed it in. That was awesome.”
Albemarle caught fire after that game two though, winning game three thanks in part to a start that included two Keira Roach aces and a 3-0 lead. Schnell ended the 25-14 blowout in game four with one of her 13 kills and, quite suddenly, Albemarle was in a groove and on the comeback trail.
“After we started getting our serves in it really just fueled the momentum,” Schnell said. “We had the mentality that we wanted it.”
It helped that the Patriots’ usual secondary strength on the outside was on fire. Albemarle usually works inside out, with Gabbi DeGennaro and Danielle LaRosa providing a powerful punch in the middle and they were on Monday as well with DeGennaro notching 13 kills and 6.5 blocks while LaRosa had 10 kills and three blocks. But when the Pats have outsides like Schnell clicking, they’re particularly tough to stop.
“We had to find a groove a lot later than we like but we did and once we do we know what we’re doing,” said Albemarle’s Bridget Pinnata. “We’re always confident whoever is outside, either Madison (Warlick) or Katie, they’re always going to get it down.”
Schnell was particularly explosive in game four, unleashing three kills in a row to ignite a 25-14 win in that frame, evening the match at 2-2. Albemarle needed that critical third surge for game five though, and dropping into a quick 2-0 hole didn’t bode well. But the Patriots found something again, edging ahead 6-3 and then 9-4. A combo block from DeGennaro and Madison Warlick extended the lead to 11-6 and the Patriots closed the door from there with LaRosa rejecting a Mountain View attack at the net for the 15-8 victory.
Bouncing back from the 2-0 deficit in game five and in the match were solid examples of the Patriots’ own three-second rule.
“We have this thing called the three-second rule, you have three seconds to think about it and then you’ve got to forget it,” Pinnata said. “You have to just focus on what’s coming next.”
Warlick finished with five aces while Roach had three aces and Kelsey Marks rang up four on the night. Defensively, Adalee Lynch had four blocks and Pinnata, Warlick and Schnell all finished with 12 digs. Roach had a team-high 23 assists with Marks not far behind with 19 helpers.
The Patriots (24-4) head to North Stafford Wednesday for the Region D championship and they’ll play Saturday in a state quarterfinal match, at home with a win in the region title game, on the road with a loss.