ATTLEBORO, Mass. — The Attleboro volleyball team was on the verge of completing an epic five-set thriller over one of the best teams in the state in King Philip, but in a blink of an eye, the Bombardiers’ six-point lead was gone.
Once holding a 12-6 lead in the deciding final set, Attleboro saw the Warriors rally for six straight points to tie the game and steal the momentum back. On top of that, Attleboro sent a free ball back instead of a swing, and KP was set up for a big attack in the middle.
But a huge double block from senior Tigin Bombardier and junior Natalie Brojek gave Attleboro the edge once again, and after trading points, sophomore Julia Leonardo (29 kills, 21 digs) landed a kill on a back row attack to secure a 3-2 (17-25, 25-17, 12-25, 25-21, 15-13) win.
“Tonight was huge,” said Attleboro head coach Mary Katherine Runey. “We knew going into this was going to be a massive match and I think it really showed the resiliency of our girls, especially being so young. We only have a couple of returners from last year so this was a true test for us, can we make the right plays in a big game? We had some moments where we showed our youth but in the end, we showed we’re capable of playing at this level.”
After splitting the first two sets, King Philip took a 2-1 lead after dominating the third set (25-12). The Bombardiers showed a lot of resolve in the fourth set as they saw a 12-10 lead turn into a 16-12 deficit. But just as quickly as their lead disappeared, it came back as the Bombardiers rattled off five straight points, including an ace from Addie Shelton, a nice push down the line by Leonardo, and an ace from Julia Mondello.
KP’s Emily Sawyer (eight kills, three blocks) traded kills with Leonardo, a service error put the Bombardiers on the brink and Leonardo once again used a back row attack to end it, 25-21.
King Philip came out with the win in the first set after a see-saw battle throughout. The Warriors led by three or four points for the majority of the set but really pulled away after getting a huge block from Kate O’Neil, a block from Sawyer, and an ace from Shore.
The second set played out similarly but it was Attleboro who claimed a three or four-point advantage by the midway point. Ellie Shelton, Addie Shelton, and Leonardo all registered kills off of assists from Brojek (39 assists, 14 digs), who did a great job throughout the match giving the Bombardiers a chance at attacking swings. Sadie Whitmarsh (23 digs) provided strong defense in the win.
“Who isn’t good at the net for [King Philip]?” said Runey. “We had to be strategic with where we were putting the ball on offense, we wanted to try to get them into mistakes passing and try and get their setter off the net which will help us defensively. We’re slowly working on our double block, which is something we want to utilize more throughout the playoffs. Both of their middles and Ahunna can put the ball at the one, and that throws any team off when their setter has to play true defense. I was very proud of the way both Natalie and Julia Mondello played in the back row tonight.”
Attleboro couldn’t have asked for a better start to the final set. Sami Shore (10 kills, six aces, four digs) scored the first point for KP after a nice dig from Ava Kelley (19 digs) but then it was six straight for the hosts: three errors from KP, an ace from Addie Shelton (seven kills, seven digs, four aces), a kill from Ellie Shelton (four kills), and another from Leonardo.
King Philip chipped away with a big block from Sawyer, a couple of Attleboro errors, some terrific defense from Ahunna James (11 kills, 25 digs, two blocks), and a clever dump from senior setter Kiara Hagen on the second touch to catch the defense, making it 12-12 before Attleboro finished it off.
“I think we can learn from this, playing a team like this and this is the first time we’ve gone to five sets all season,” said King Philip head coach Kristen Geuss. “We needed this…we needed to play in this atmosphere, we needed the crowd yelling at us, we needed this going forward. Attleboro played great, they are a great team and I give them total credit. Their program has really turned around which is so good to see. That being said, we made a lot of mistakes. We had a lot of unforced errors that we don’t usually do. But again, this environment was different so I think this is good for us.
“This was a hard loss but it was a well-fought match. What it does is open our eyes. We have to step up and stop the unforced errors. We came back in that fifth set, I was happy about that. That shows we can dig in. But a few points here or there against good teams can change things.”
Attleboro volleyball (12-1 Hockomock, 14-1 overall) takes sole possession of first place in the Kelley-Rex division with three matches to go. The Bombardiers are on the road the rest of the way, starting with a trip to Taunton on Wednesday ahead of a huge showdown with Franklin on Monday. King Philip (11-2, 14-2) will look to bounce back on Wednesday at Milford.
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