Our Redeemer's Christian School seniors Ashley Koppinger and Emily VanLith were not about to let a two-game lead slip away on their home court to crosstown rival Bishop Ryan.
Koppinger and VanLith combined for six of the Knights' 17 points in a back-and-forth fifth game to earn a 3-2 victory over the Lions on Tuesday and remain tied atop the District 12 standings.
Koppinger had a team-high 23 kills and nine aces and VanLith added 14 kills in the win (25-22, 30-28, 19-25, 20-25, 17-15).
Our Redeemer’s Christian School senior outside hitter Ashley Koppinger makes a play on the ball as Bishop Ryan sophomore middle hitter Gabbie Bohl (15) and junior outside hitter Brieann Backes defend during Tuesday’s game at ORCS.
ORCS junior setter Brooke Knutson ended the match with her third ace on the team's third match point opportunity. The Knights finished with 18 aces.
Prior to the start of the final game, ORCS coach Sherry Carlson told her players exactly what she wanted them to do.
"I told them not to dig a hole and they did," she said. "That seems to be our mantra. We've been fortunate enough to come out of a lot of them, but you can't rely on that. It's going to catch up with us at some point."
The Lions (10-9 overall, 1-3 district) held a 12-11 lead before the Knights rallied with three unanswered points for their first match-point opportunity. Ryan sophomore outside hitter Hannah Stewart's 16th and 17th kills of the match tied the game at 14. A net violation by Stewart gave ORCS another chance to end the game, but junior middle hitter Gabbie Bohl kept Ryan alive with her 13th kill.
"We performed amazing," Bohl said. "We came out ready to play and I think we surprised them. But in the end we've been having trouble with the fifth games. That's just one thing we have to work at."
The Lions held the lead in all five games, but were unable to close out the first and second frames. Ryan led 22-15 in the opening game before Koppinger single-handedly brought ORCS back. Koppinger served five straight aces and the Knights held serve for the final 10 points of the game.
"I guess my serves were just on," Koppinger said. "When we needed a point I knew someone had to get it."
Ryan took a 14-11 lead in the second game, but two aces by Knutson and one by Koppinger gave ORCS momentum and a 20-18 lead. Tied at 22, neither team led by more than a point until Bohl's spike attempt went wide on ORCS' third game point.
"I just want the team to know that there is so much more to learn," Ryan coach Patty Luetzen said, "so at the end we win these five-game matches."
ORCS (18-7, 5-0) scored the first two points of the third game and looked determined to sweep the Lions. But the 2-0 lead quickly became an 11-4 deficit as Stewart and Bohl began converting kills. The Knights couldn't mount a run like in the first two games and Bohl closed out the third frame on a block.
Bohl, Stewart and Anika Rovig dominated the fourth game for the Lions. The trio combined for 10 of the team's 25 points. Senior outside hitter Dani Will helped fend off ORCS' rally with two late aces, including the game clincher to keep the Lions alive in the match.
"We came in knowing that (Ryan) was going to be tough," Koppinger said. "We definitely had to work for it. We would have liked to win it in three games."
ORCS hosts Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood and Ryan hosts Surrey. Both games are at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The Knights are tied with Kenmare and Lewis & Clark atop the district.