MARTINS FERRY - If Tuesday night's match against Bellaire was a test of character for the Martins Ferry volleyball team, it passed with flying colors.
After falling 27-25 in a thrilling first set, the Purple Riders rallied for victories of 25-16 and 25-11 in the final two to down their Route 7 and Buckeye 8 rivals in the finale of a trifecta inside the Tolbert Gymnasium.
The match was part of a ''Team Up for a Cure'' event, along with Buckeye Trail, that raised funds for 14-year-old leukemia patient, and Martins Ferry student, Shawna Warner.
Martins Ferry’s Tyrah King (15) prepares to hit the ball over the net Wednesday night as teammate Shaye DeLeonardis (12) watches along with Bellaire’s Hunter Eden (9), Aubrey Ryan (12) and Mackenzie Conroy (20). Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
''That was probably the best set we'd played all evening,'' Martins Ferry head coach Chuck Probst said of the clinching set against Bellaire (5-7).
''Give Bellaire credit. They came ready to play. I think our girls were down for some reason, but they did well and finished strong and that's what I wanted them to do.''
The Purple Riders (5-5) jumped up to a 4-0 lead in the third set thanks, in part, to a spike by Tyrah King and an ace by Morgan Carpenter.
The lead later ballooned to 7-3 when Shaye DeLeonardis scored one of her 10 points.
Moments later, a Big Reds' shot went wide making the score 11-4 and forcing Bellaire head coach Kaye Sechrest to call time.
''They took it to us and we couldn't recover from it,'' she said. ''(The girls) tried, but it just wasn't our night.''
Ferry never trailed in the final set, leading by as much as 14.
''It seemed like the passes were better and the setters were setting up the hitters better,'' Probst said. ''We were in position better and it worked out well for us.''
Even though the Big Reds won the first set, Ferry likely gained the match's momentum near the end of it.
Bellaire led nearly the entire way before the Purple Riders rallied to tie things at 21-21. After that, there were four ties and five lead changes before the Big Reds prevailed.
''The girls started to gel there and play together,'' Probst said. ''Bellaire had us off-balance that first game, though.''
Carpenter finished with 12 points, eight assists, five dogs and four kills. DeLeonardis added 11 assists, five digs and five kills, while Lauren Bennett had seven points and 10 digs.
King added 14 kills and Brooklyn Monroe had nine digs.
Morgan Runyan paced Bellaire with 16 points. Tori Duffy added 10 points, while Mary Garloch had nine points and Hunter Eden had eight digs.
Trail edges Ferry
In the first match of the night, Alexis Wheeler had 16 points as Buckeye Trail downed Martins Ferry 25-13, 23-25, 25-15.
Kelsey Beros added six points, nine kills and 11 digs for the Warriors.
Katie Sutherland paced Ferry with 10 points and six digs. King added five points, eight kills and five digs, while Bennett had eight digs.
Warriors down Big Reds
Buckeye Trail picked up its second victory of the night by defeating Bellaire 25-8, 25-9.
Eden and Runyan both scored three points for the Big Reds.
Thorp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org