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Ryan volleyball rallies from 2-0 down for special senior night win

Lackluster start but an iconic finish wasn’t how Bishop Ryan volleyball head coach Nick Theis envisioned senior night going. Yet, hard to scoff at a five-set victory on your home court.

The Lions (3-1) recovered from a 2-0 deficit Thursday evening to beat Bottineau (1-2) by set scores of 20-25, 19-25, 25-12, 25-16, 15-6.

“As much as I wanted to be home in three,” Theis said, “I can’t complain about five.”

The five Ryan seniors recognized before the match were Maleah Abel, Nora Kramer, Hailey Steckler, Sylvie Kramer and Maddie Hedberg.

“This means a lot,” Kramer said about the win. “The past few senior nights haven’t gone so well for us. So, I was kind of nervous coming into this. But, I’m really glad we came out with the win.”

Mistakes and miscues plagued the opening set. While Bottineau made enough digs and quality swings to cover up its errors, Ryan couldn’t overcome the blunders until the deficit was far too large.

The Lions fought off set point three times before a serve into the net ended the frame at 25-20.

“We didn’t start like lady Lions, but we finished like lady Lions,” Theis said. “The third set should what we could do, and we pushed until the end. The girls turned it around and picked it up.”

Ryan jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the second set. But, behind the serving of Bottineau senior Whitni Peck, the Stars strung together six straight points to make things interesting again.

The four-point lead swung the other way with Bottineau up 16-12, 18-14 and 20-16 later in the frame.

Back-to-back aces by Peck put the set away for the Stars at 25-19.

Peck filled the stat sheet with three aces, five blocks, seven kills and 12 digs. Kylie Simpson matched with a team-high seven kills.

Sabra Peterson provided 12 additional digs and three aces. Setter Mya Troska tossed up 16 assists.

Bottineau was rolling, Ryan not so much.

“We weren’t playing altogether as a team,” Abel said about the Lions’ 2-0 hole. “We were all super quiet and low energy. We weren’t playing the best that we can play.”

Facing a long, grueling road to get back into the match, Ryan rallied with a convincing 25-12 victory in the must-win third set.

“I think they just realized that they could play,” Theis said. “Our passing and serving was all over the place, but they settled in and realized that they could pass the ball. We started hitting our setters’ hands, and the sets picked up.”

A tightly contested fourth set was tied at 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 before Abel took matters into her own hands. She served up multiple aces to force Bottineau into a timeout down 18-14.

Abel and Sydney Upton each racked up seven aces in the contest.

Meanwhile, the cushion continued to grow as Ryan stormed away late. A kill by Chinelo Udekwe eventually captured set point at 25-16.

“The first thing we had to do was make a pass,” Kramer said. “We made that adjustment, and it led to us getting good sets and good kills.”

With the energy fully restored in the Lions’ Den, Ryan raced out to a 6-1 advantage in the final set before Bottineau finally called a timeout.

“It was super exciting,” Abel said. “I knew that we could do it.”

The sprint to 15 points was pretty straightforward. Two timely aces from Upton put the Lions into cruise control before celebrating the come-from-behind victory.

Upton and Kramer both finished with 14 kills. The assists were also spread out evenly with Abel and Magee Rovig each collected 16 apiece.

“The last three sets, I recorded kills from 5-6 hitters,” Theis said. “That’s phenomenal.”

The Lions return to practice for a week before retaking the court next Thursday, Sept. 17, at home against Mohall/Lansford/Sherwood. Start time around 7 p.m. following the junior varsity contest.

Bottineau is back in action at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, with a home against Dunseith.

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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