OPPENHEIM - The St. Johnsville/Oppenheim-Ephratah volleyball team had its back to the wall after falling two games behind the Mohawk Mohicans during Monday night's Center State Conference girls volleyball match.
However, that was when they played their best volleyball.
The Hawks won the third and fourth games to tie the match, and then outlasted the Mohicans for a 32-30 victory in the third game to pull out the victory.
St. Johnsville/Oppenheim-Ephratah’s Alyssa Swartz hits the ball back over the net as Leann Knapp (4) looks on during Monday’s Center State Conference match against Mohawk at Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
St. Johnsville/Oppenheim-Ephratah’s Ashley Hill sets a ball during Monday’s Center State Conference girls volleyball match at Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
St. JOE won the match 14-25, 23-25, 25-15, 25-19, 32-30.
"I was really happy with that," St.JOE coach Brittany Tomek said. "We've been giving up in the third game and tonight, they came back and played really good in the fourth and fifth game. They didn't give up."
After losing by 10 points in the first game, the Hawks (4-7 overall, 3-3 CSC) made a better show of it in the second game, losing by only three points, but Tomek had a message for them when they switched sides for the third game.
"I told them we can't give up in this third game," Tomek said. "We have to go and act like it's our first game in. They did it and they played really well. I'm really happy with the way they were getting those sideouts because we've had a hard time with that serve-receive in that first and second game."
They got off to a fast start with the help of three Mohawk hitting errors to take a 7-2 lead.
And as the Hawks' play changed, so did the atmosphere in the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School gymnasium. During the first two games, the place was quiet, but as St. JOE gained momentum, the energy in the gym increased.
"I've been trying to get it through their heads that they need to come out hard and they need to come out with intensity," Tomek said. "When they play like that for the first two games, they can't piece everything together. Once they started getting that intensity up for the third, fourth and fifth games, it really brought what I see in practice every day out."
A seven-point service run by Alyssa Swartz at the end of third game propelled the Hawks to a 10-point win, giving St. JOE new life.
Then in the fourth game, the Hawks managed to stay about two points ahead of the Mohicans (4-8 overall, 3-3 CSC) for Swartz had a kill to give St. JOE a 16-9 lead on their way to a six-point win to tie the match.
Then in the decisive fifth game, neither team could gain any separation and the match was constantly tied as neither team could get the decisive points needed to win. Both teams were a point away from a win several times, but had difficulty finishing it off.
Finally, Mohawk made a mistake to break a 30-30 tie, as Cassidy Babcock's return hit was short, sending the serve back to St. JOE.
After the Hawks' Katie Pabis went to the serving line, the match finally ended, on a hitting error by Stephanie Hurteau as the Hawks celebrated on their hard-fought win on the court.
Tomek said she hopes the win can propel the Hawks through their final six matches.
"We've got six games left so I'm hoping this brings some confidence," she said. "That can really change this season around and get some wins."