Littlestown keeps grip on final district playoff spot
Littlestown outside hitter Hanna Riley could feel her heart beating out of her chest.
The Bolts were tied 13-13 with York Catholic in the fifth and deciding set of Thursday's home match. With Littlestown sitting on the edge of the District 3 playoff picture, the upcoming sequence stood to be the most important of the team's season.
Despite the tense situation, Riley remained confident.
"I got a little nervous, but that's just me," Riley said. "There was a little bit of pressure but I thought we would be okay."
The Bolts would come through, scoring the game's final two points to win the match 3-2 (16-25, 26-24, 25-20, 21-25, 15-13). With two regular season games remaining, Littlestown (8-6, 7-3 YAIAA Division III) is currently in the sixth and final playoff spot in District 3 Class 2A.
While the Bolts were swept by the Irish just three weeks ago, Littlestown head coach Steve Staub said he knew his team could play with York Catholic. The only thing he felt the Bolts needed to change was their consistency.
"They did beat us 3-0 the first time but it was very close," Staub said. "We felt confident coming in. Consistency and teamwork have improved. At times girls get frustrated and it can be easy to give up, but they don't."
The most important sequence of the match arguably came in the second set. After losing the first set, the Bolts led 18-11 in the second but allowed a 13-4 run that put them down to their last point and in danger of going down 2-0.
But the Bolts would score three straight points before Emily Staub hit a shot the Irish front line was unable to handle, giving Littlestown the set and tying the match.
"We didn't make any changes," Steve Staub said. "We had a little bit of a lapse in focus, we called a timeout (with the score tied at 21), gave them a chance to regain their focus. Just said we have a job to do and we can't give back a bunch of points and expect to do well."
The Bolts would keep the momentum by winning the third set before dropping the fourth to set up the nerve-racking and decisive fifth set. Riley led the team with 14 kills while Emily Staub chipped in with 31 assists and 19 digs.
It was the Bolts' second victory this season over a division rival that is currently ahead of them in the district standings, following a 3-2 win over Hanover on Sept. 22. Staub said the team hasn't played up to its potential all season, but is starting to with the playoffs coming up.
"There's no doubt in my mind that we have been able to play like that all season, there's just been some inconsistencies here and there," the coach said. "It's good for them this close to districts to know how they can play."
The loss was York Catholic's second to a division rival in the past week, including a sweep at the hands of Delone Catholic on Oct 6. The Irish (10-4, 8-3) are currently third in District 3 Class 2A.