FORT LORAMIE — Fort Loramie was hanging on early in the fourth game of a nonconference match on Saturday. Versailles had a 2-1 lead, was tied 9-9 and looking to put away their second consecutive big victory.
The Redskins were looking for a way to stay alive — and found it with some help from the Tigers.
Versailles sent two spikes out of bounds and stepped over the midcourt line twice in a row to help spark a big Fort Loramie run. The Redskins pulled away to a 25-14 win in game four and carried the momentum into a 15-12 victory in game five to earn a 3-2 win.
“We knew that they were going to get great kills because they have great hitters,” Fort Loramie junior outside hitter Marissa Meiring said. “We told ourselves before the game that if they get a big kill, we just need to get back into it and get over it.
“… Whenever they got a big kills, we just went into the huddle and made eye contact. Eye contact was something big we focused on this week to give everybody the confidence to get back into the game and push forward.”
Fort Loramie coach John Rodgers said the comeback started in the third set. Though Versailles won 25-22, the Redskins (5-3) were down 11-4 early and battled back to come as close as one point.
“We talk a lot with them that when push comes to shove, the only people that can help them are the people on the floor,” Rodgers said. “The crowd is loud, the coaches are screaming, the benches are screaming, but they have to rely on each other.
“They’re really starting to figure that out. If they rely on each other, some pretty neat things can happen.”
After Fort Loramie’s big run in the fourth set, Meiring had two early kills in the fifth set to help the squad take a 5-2 lead. Meiring had several spikes go out of bounds early in the match but was consistent late. She had five of her game-high 15 kills in the fifth set.
“Any time you can jump out to a big lead in the fifth set, it’s going to make a difference,” Rodgers said. “(Meiring) is just one of those players where it just doesn’t bother her. She just keeps playing. If she’d have hit those out of bounds (in the fifth set), she’d still have been the same kid no matter what.”
Versailles (5-3) tied it 8-8, but Meiring responded with a kill and later had two more to help the Redskins regain control at 12-10.
After Versailles outside hitter Raegen Shaffer had a kill to cut the lead to 12-11, sophomore setter Maya Maurer sent a soft spike over the net for a kill. The Tigers then had a double hit on the next rally to put Fort Loramie up by three.
Fort Loramie had a serving error to bring Versailles within 14-12, but McKenzie Hoelscher finished the set with a kill after a hard spike.
It was the second consecutive loss to a Shelby County Athletic League school on Saturday for Versailles, which lost 3-0 to rival Russia the previous week. Coach Kenzie Bruggeman said the squad, which beat previously undefeated Marion Local on Thursday, has been plagued by inconsistent play so far this year.
“That was rough,” Bruggeman said. “The miscommunication and just mess on the court. I feel like we couldn’t even tell left or right let alone put anything together to be a successful volleyball team.
“… We get in these situations and play at that level, and there’s nobody that really steps up and says, ‘This is enough. Set me, let me do it until we get back on track.’ We just don’t have anybody stepping up to do that, and we just keep playing at a blah level.”
The Tigers won the first game 25-23 and lost the second 25-21. Though Fort Loramie rallied in the third, Bruggeman was happy Versailles held on to take a 2-1 lead.
Then things fell apart in the middle of the fourth set. Bruggeman called a timeout after the consecutive out-of-bounds hits and line violations gave Fort Loramie a 13-9 lead. The Redskins’ run didn’t end there, though.
Hoelscher and Austin had kills after the timeout to push the lead to six points. Versailles then sent a ball out of bounds to increase the lead to 16-9.
The Tigers will have to try to find consistent play, as they have tough league opponents in New Bremen and New Knoxville and a nonconference game at Troy on the schedule within the next two weeks.
“It’s a matter of still focusing on our side and pull ourselves out of whatever this is,” Bruggeman said. “You look back at Thursday, and we’re an absolutely different team, playing against a very good MAC school.”
The Redskins are finding consistency with freshman middle hitter Jada Drees, freshman outside hitter Ava Sholtis and Maurer playing most of every match.
Fort Loramie saw a 2-0 lead evaporate in a 3-2 loss at Russia on Tuesday but bounced back with a dominating win at Houston on Thursday.
“It’s a big learning experience,” Meiring said. “We’re just working on everybody perfecting their game, everybody being ready to go from the bench to the court and transferring it from practice to games.
“… We were really down after Russia, but it was a learning experience. What we learned from the Russia game, we transferred into the game today and it really paid off.”
Sholtis has made a big impact for Fort Loramie’s offense. She had 10 kills on Saturday and is third on the team this season with 55.
“We knew she was really good in eighth grade but she is such a phenomenal athlete and can jump so high,” Meiring said. “She’s just getting into the varsity speed of things so fast and is transferring well from junior high.”
Hoelscher finished with 10 kills on Saturday. Aleah Frilling had 20 assists and Maurer had 18. Emily Austin had 13 digs and Frilling had 12.
Fort Loramie’s next game is a big SCAL contest. The Redskins will host Jackson Center (4-2) on Tuesday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.