FAIRMONT — When volleyball matches come down to a decisive fifth set, a good start is imperative as the teams race to 15 points.
St. Pauls got such a start Tuesday, scoring seven straight points early in the set to pull away from Fairmont and earn a 3-2 win.
“Making sure they had their energy up (was key),” St. Pauls coach Glenda Lowery said. “When they keep their energy up, they play better; they talk more, they move more, they’re in coverage. We talked about making sure that they were already where they needed to be and anticipating getting there, and starting strong and staying strong.”
Fairmont (2-13, 2-5 Southeastern Athletic Conference) scored the first two points of the fifth set before Katherin Lowery began her turn serving for St. Pauls (4-11, 4-3 Southeastern). The Bulldogs scored seven straight points and 11 of the next 12 to take an 11-3 lead, then cruised to a 15-6 set win.
“As I got back there serving I was just like, get it over and in, get consistent serves,” said Katherin Lowery, who had 21 service points, seven aces, nine kills, 23 assists and three digs. “I wasn’t worrying too much about the placement; I wanted it to be good, and when they put their libero back in, I moved it away from her, but other than that I was just trying to get it over and in. We just wanted to keep that good energy up, and we wanted to keep a big gap.”
“(Lowery) gave us trouble all night,” Fairmont coach Michael Baker said. “We didn’t do a good job of serve and receive on her. I don’t have to look at the stats, I know that girl gave us problems, she was making five-, six-, seven-(point) runs on us. And the fifth game is short. We came out (and scored two points), but we knew they were going to punch back. They made a stand, and we didn’t make a stand.”
The match was in a fifth set after a Golden Tornadoes comeback in the fourth set. After Fairmont led 15-9, St. Pauls used an 11-1 run to take a 20-16 lead — then Fairmont closed on a 9-1 run, during the serve of Sydney Bass and Lindsey Floyd, to win the set 25-21.
Fairmont, though, couldn’t maintain that momentum into the fifth set, and the Bulldogs overcame the fourth-set disappointment to make their response.
“We had momentum, and came out in the fifth set with the momentum,” Baker said. “(Scored) two points and we were in good shape — but that’s how the game goes. You can lose that momentum just like that. Sometimes when you lose that momentum you just can’t get it back. They got it and they sustained it.”
“They actually motivated each other,” Glenda Lowery said. “They talked to each other, they were like ‘guys, we’re not playing the best we can, we need to fix this.’ And they talked to each other about that and encouraged each other and they pulled each other back up.”
The teams split two close, back-and-forth sets to start the match. In the first set, neither team led by more than three points; after Fairmont had three chances to win the set, St. Pauls scored three straight points to win 30-28, with kills from Katherin Lowery and Brazlyn Kinlaw for the last two points.
Fairmont led the second set 5-1 before St. Pauls tied it at 7-7; from there, neither team led by more than two points. A 4-0 spurt by Fairmont turned a 22-20 deficit to a 24-22 lead, and the Tornadoes won 25-23.
The third set foreshadowed the fifth, with Katherin Lowery’s serve spurring a Bulldogs run; St. Pauls took a 6-1 lead. Fairmont got as close as 9-8 before the Bulldogs took off again, stretching their lead to 19-12 en route to a 25-14 win.
“That (third set) was very important,” Glenda Lowery said. “We are trying to find the right chemistry, we had people playing different positions today. That third set showed them — where they’d been running back and forth, back and forth — we can do better than we’ve been doing, and gave them the motivation to step up and push themselves even more.”
Kinlaw had seven kills and four digs for the Bulldogs; Jada McKinnon had 11 service points, four aces, four kills and six blocks; Cierra Jones had two aces, eight kills, 15 assists and five digs; Alexis Carter had 17 digs; Shayla Gerald had six kills; Jaiden Morrisey had two aces, two blocks and five digs; and KeMyah Baldwin had three aces, seven kills and 15 digs.
Anastasia Andujar had seven kills for Fairmont, Secret Davis had four kills and six blocks, Hannah Hunt had six kills, Alexis Brown had seven digs and Payton Gall had eight assists and three aces.
St. Pauls hosts Red Springs on Thursday. Fairmont plays at Midway Wednesday; the game was moved up from Thursday due to football now playing Thursday because of the forecasted impacts of Hurricane Ian on Friday and beyond.
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.