It was a storybook evening for Allen Community College’s volleyball team, Wednesday, with a thrilling Sophomore Night matchup against the Red Devils’ rivals from Neosho.
But the evening filled with dramatic momentum shifts, rally-saving heroics and thunderous kills had a bummer of a final chapter for the home team.
The Red Devils were one point away from victory, at 16-15 in the fifth and final set, when consecutive hitting errors by the Red Devils gave Neosho the upper hand.
The Panthers’ took that slight opening and roared through the finish line on Carolina Alfonso’s kill down the line. Her shot won the tiebreaker in Neosho’s 24-26, 25-19, 21-25, 25-19, 18-16 victory.
The loss ends the regular season for Allen, which still advances to the NJCAA Division II District Tournament Nov. 9 at Johnson County Community College.
“That was my message to the players,” Allen head coach Jessica Peters said. “We can sit and stir over this, or we can look at it as a loss with an opportunity. The girls already had done enough early in the season to secure us a slot in the playoffs. All this loss did was affect our seeding.”
The loss left several players in tears, Peters noted.
“I know Sidney (Keith) is taking it hard,” Peters said, “but she shouldn’t.”
It was Keith’s leadership that almost single-handedly gave Allen the victory.
Neosho had broken out quickly in the tiebreaker, leading 12-7, before Keith delivered four straight kills as part of a 5-0 run to tie the score. A Lizzy Huey block put Allen on top, 14-13. Huey’s kill two points later, pushed Allen to the brink, 15-14.
But a Panther kill was just far enough away for Keith’s return to sail just wide to even the score. A Panther blocker forced Keith to elevate her next kill attempt, which sailed just beyond the end line to give Neosho a 17-16 lead. Alfonso then found the opening in the Red Devil defense for the match-winner.
The match went back and forth through the first four sets, with neither team able to secure full control.
The opening set was a nail-biter from the start, with ACC holding a slight advantage until Neosho knotted the score at 22-22, and then 24-24, before a pair of Panther hitting errors gave the Red Devils the win.
Neosho broke out of the gates quickly in the second set, leading 10-2 , before Allen responded with a 10-2 run of its own to pull even. The run included a jaw-dropping point by Danielle Goodman, in which her diving save out of bounds wound up sending the ball gently over the net and between the stunned Panther players, prompting a large roar out of the ACC crowd.
But even though Allen took its first lead a short while later, 15-14, courtesy of Halley Scott’s ace, Neosho closed an 11-4 run to seal the second set.
The Red Devils returned the favor quickly, jumping to a 7-2 lead. The run included another improbable point by the Red Devils, this one courtesy of Adriee Munoz. Like Goodman one set earlier, Munoz saved a point by racing out of bounds just in time to knock the ball back over the net for a remarkable kill. Undaunted, Neosho responded with a 15-7 run to lead by three, 17-14.
But a Munoz kill and a pair of Lizzy Huey blocks were part of a Allen’s 6-1 run to retake a 20-18 lead.
Keith’s kill gave the second set to Allen.
“If I was disappointed with anything, it was that we didn’t end the match in the fourth set,” Peters said. “We just never put together any type of a run. We couldn’t get our energy going.”
Indeed, Allen scored consecutive points only once in the set as Neosho won, 25-19, to force the tiebreaker.
FOUR ALLEN players had at least nine kills in the match, led by Keith’s 21. Munoz followed with 14, Huey with 13 and Goodman with nine. Huey also had three solo blocks.
“We saw a whole new side of Lizzy tonight,” Peters said. “She was tremendous.”
Munoz and Ashlyn Myers led the setters with 31 and 27 assists, respectively. Sarah Charbonneau had 34 digs, with several coming in extended rallies that left fans of both teams breathless.
Neosho def. Allen, 3-2
(24-26, 25-19, 21-25, 25-19, 18-16)
Halley Scott, 1 ace, 19 digs, 1 point
Danielle Goodman, 9 kills, 6 digs, 1 block assist, 9.5 points
Sidney Keith, 21 kills, 1 set assist, 1 ace, 18 digs, 1 solo block, 2 block assists, 24 points
Adriee Munoz, 14 kills, 31 set assists, 18 digs, 1 solo block, 15 points
Sarah Webb, 1 kill, 1 point
Andonae Magdziarz, 2 kills, 1 dig, 1 solo block, 3 block assists, 4.5 points
Ashlyn Myers, 13 digs
Lizzy Huey, 13 kills, 4 digs, 3 solo blocks, 2 block assists, 17 points
Sarah Charbonneau, 1 set assist, 24 digs
Kelsey Kasson, 2 kills, 4 digs, 3 points