River falls in 5 sets to Southern in 2A

Photo/PAUL KRAJNYAK RIVER’S Lauren Flannery skies for the ball during the Pilots’ OVAC Class 2A semifinal match against Southern on Tuesday night at Shadyside High School. River rallied from two sets down, but fell in five.

SHADYSIDE — Southern scored four unanswered points twice in the fifth set Tuesday night, the final sequence clinching a thrilling OVAC Class 2A semifinal triumph against River inside Shadyside High School.

The Indians won the first two sets before the Pilots made it a marathon. In the end, Southern won 25-21, 25-17, 22-25, 22-25, 15-6 and will have an opportunity to defend its conference crown Saturday at 5:30 p.m. against Shadyside inside Union Local High School’s “Hangar.”

“We were moving slow in the beginning,” River head coach Judi Curtis said. “You can’t wait until the third set to come back.

“But we played hard.”

Indians’ stalwart Riley Felton recorded a point giving her team a 3-1 lead in the fifth. Lauren Flannery answered with a point of her own, bringing the Pilots to within one.

But from there, the Indians went on a 7-1 run, building a 10-3 lead. River trimmed its deficit to five, 11-6, but Southern finished the match with four consecutive points.

Curtis said it wasn’t a case of her team getting wore down, they simply were defeated by a better opponent.

“We’ve done that a lot this year,” she said in reference to going down two sets to none. I knew it was going to bite us one of these times and it did.”

River stayed close in the first two sets it didn’t win, then, in the third, finally broke through, Curtis said, due to improved team play.

“We just played better as a team,” she said. “It’s teammwork. You have to play better as a team.”

This time, the Pilots jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third set, capped by a Lauren Flannery point. She finished with 17 kills, 25 digs and 11 points.

River maintained the lead, which increased to 12-6 on a point by Macey Ladyga. She ended with 10 points, eight kills and 14 digs.

Southern closed to within three, 16-13, but Ladyga’s point spurred a three-point run that propelled River to victory.

The momentum carried into the fourth set where River, again, held the lead most of the way. Southern closed to with three, 23-20, prompting Curtis to call time. The words were heeded and River held on to fourth the fifth, and deciding set.

Katie Straub paced River with 13 points and 20 digs. Candace Caldwell added 14 digs, while Cortny Sapp had eight kills.

Curtis said the match was a good test for what the Pilots will see in sectional play. River will play host to Steubenville Catholic, who lost to the Tigers in the first match of the night, a week from today, in a Division IV opener.

“Hopefully, we’ll be well and be able to get it together before sectionals.”