Those were just some of the obstacles the King Philip volleyball had to overcome on Wednesday evening on the road at Quincy.
King Philip fell behind 1-0, saw momentum swing to the hosts when the Presidents erased a 2-1 deficit to force a decisive fifth set, and then rallied when Quincy was just two points from a victory.
Trailing 13-12 in the final set, the Warriors won three straight points when senior Kiley Sullivan dumped a second ball to an open space in the Quincy back row, junior Lily Carlow dropped in an ace into the center of the court, and senior Kristen Masse drilled a line shot for a kill that clinched a 3-2 (21-25, 25-14, 25-14, 18-25, 15-13) win for #2 King Philip over #3 Quincy.
“They’ve worked so hard all season, day in and day out,” said King Philip head coach Kristen Geuss. “We’ve had some close games along the way. This game could have gone either way, it really could have. I think that game three gave us a lot of confidence. I know we lost game four but they knew they could it. And they fight to the end, and that’s impressive. Regardless of the outcome tonight, I couldn’t ask for anything more, they’ve been working hard.”
The fifth set was a rollercoaster symbolic of how the entire match went. Quincy jumped ahead with a quick 4-1 lead but the Warriors battled back with a 7-3 run that included a big block from Catherine Waldeck (21 kills, five blocks), aces from Emma Brooks (13 digs, three kills) and Masse (eight kills, four digs), and a double block from Nicole Coughlan (11 kills, three aces, two blocks) and Giovanna Fruci.
After switching sides, the Warriors twice took multi-point leads but Quincy wouldn’t go away. Waldeck had a big block and a kill to take an 11-8 lead but back-to-back points from the President made it a one-point game again.
Waldeck rose up and slammed a free ball down after a good defensive play from the Presidents for a 12-10 advantage but Quincy grabbed momentum back after a service error and a kill, tying it at 12-12.
After a timeout from Geuss, Quincy got a kind roll on a swing that just made it over the net and fell to the floor for a 13-12 lead, forcing Geuss into another timeout.
“I just told them, ‘we can do this.’” Geuss said of the message in the timeout. “We talked about how no ball touches the floor, we had been there before and we can do it again. We struggled with our serves at times so we needed to get our serves over and in. And we did it.”
An errant pass on a serve receive pulled Sullivan out of position but she alertly pushed the second touch deep into Quincy’s side, and with the defense pulled in, the ball fell to the floor to make it 13-13.
Carlow followed up but delivering a dipping ace right over the net and between the front and back rows to put KP on the verge of the win. After handling a Quincy swing, Sullivan set Masse up and she placed a perfect shot down the line for the win.
“We’re deep,” Geuss said of having so many players make plays down the stretch. “We work on these situations in practice and we talk about how not everything needs to be a kill. You look for the open spots, play smart. Sometimes it’s better to play smarter than to play harder.”
The opening set went back-and-forth with each team trying to feel the other out. The teams were tied six times over the first 22 points. King Philip had its largest lead behind a block from Waldeck, and then a double block from Waldeck and Ali McNamara to go up 17-12.
But Quincy fed off the energy of home court advantage and rallied with a 7-2 to knot the game at 19-19. KP won the next two points on back-to-back kills from Sullivan and Masse but Quincy won the final six points to secure a 25-21 win and a 1-0 advantage.
King Philip grabbed a small cushion early and held onto that for the majority of the match. A quick 5-2 burst midway through the set that featured a pair of kills from Waldeck gave King Philip a 15-10 advantage, and the Warriors never looked back from there. KP finished with a 10-4 run with Coughlan getting a pair of kills and using a strong serve late that helped clinch the win.
“Our defense, they’ve played well all year long,” Geuss said. “They are the start of everything. They don’t get the glamour but they set everything up for us.”
The momentum carried over for the Warriors, and they put on a stellar performance in the third game to take a lead in the match.
KP raced out a 15-5 lead with Waldeck, Coughlan, Carlow, Brooks (back row), and McNamara all recording kills early in the set, and Lauren Peterson chipping in with an ace and a handful of strong sets.
Quincy picked up a little steam late in the set but King Philip finished it off behind a tip kill from Waldeck, a block kill from Coughlan, and an ace from Brooks for the Warriors’ second straight 25-14 win.
“My two middles have been incredible the whole year,” Geuss said of Waldeck and Coughlan. “They are our go-to players. We have some strong outsides but our middles have gotten it done all year so whenever we can, we go to our middles.”
The fourth set resembled the first, with it being close throughout before Quincy pulled away. Besides an early lead, KP’s only advantage came at 14-3 after a terrific save on a loose ball from Sullivan. But Quincy took the lead with a 6-2 run and never looked back, eventually winning 25-18.
King Philip volleyball (18-4) is back in the D1 Central/East Sectional Final and will take on #4 Boston Latin (14-6) on Saturday at Wellesley High with the start time still to be determined.