POWHATAN – On Powhatan Volleyball’s varsity team, the bench is lined up and down with players ready to come in and contribute.
That was on full display in the Indians' intense regular-season rematch with rival Midlothian on Tuesday night.
Zoe Higley made smart, un-returnable attacks.
Faith Henderson gave her opponents powerful trouble up the middle.
And Kara Huber’s serving stretch in the fourth set willed her Indians out of a 4-8 deficit and into a tiegame situation.
That deep team effort propelled Powhatan Girls Volleyball out of an early 1-set deficit and on past the Trojans (18-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-18, 15-10) in a 5-set thriller.
“What a fun match of volleyball!” Powhatan coach Cindy Bryant said. “Those are the kinds of matches you just want to play all the time.”
With the win, Powhatan avenged an early regular-season 3-0 loss to Midlothian and further built on a 2-0 win over the Trojans in the Virginia Volleyball Showcase invitational that followed.
Giving the Indians’ triumph even more meaning was the fact that they had to win without the on-court contributions of outside hitting force Sierra Ellison, whom they didn’t expect to still be out at this point as she continues to recover from an ankle-related injury.
The Indians went into Tuesday night’s game talking about where their mindset had to be in order for the win to become possible. That included showcasing total aggression and not giving up.
“The girls did that,” Coach Bryant said. “We saw some huge play out of some bench players who came in at some key times.”
“In the beginning, in our huddle, we were like: Look, they’re gonna have some really good plays,” said Star Bryant, who knows several of the girls on Midlothian’s team and played club volleyball with one of them a couple of years ago. “But so are we, so we can’t let those plays get us down. We’re just gonna come out on top and stay out on top.”
That’s what Powhatan did in the fifth, tiebreaking set, rocketing out to a 10-3 lead and holding on against a short run from Midlothian to watch the away team’s serve fly too far and out-of-bounds for Powhatan’s match point at 15-10.
Powhatan’s team depth also shined on the back line, as five players – Natalie Mueller, Libero Allie Dulio, Star Bryant, McKenzie Urbine and Bryson Amorese – were a key part of limiting the Trojans’ fiery attack.
Mueller was an all-around force, leading the team with 15 digs to go along with her 9 kills and 5 blocks, including a pair of back-to-back stops in the tiebreaking fifth set.
Sophomore Allie Dulio made 10 digs, and she contributed two serves for points to help Powhatan lead 9-3 in the tiebreaker.
Star had 6 digs to go along with her 3 blocks – including a big one to set up match point in the fifth – and a team-leading 12 kills on the night.
“To have a good night for blocking…that’s the best feeling in the world” – Star said – “is just having a powerhouse hitter (attack from the opposing side) and just stuffing it back. “
Sophomore Amorese racked up 31 assists to continue her brilliant season at setter. Sophomore Henderson, who got pulled up from JV this season, delivered the very first point of the game and finished with 7 kills.
The two units traded sets of 25-18 to tie the match before the Trojans rallied from a 12-6 third-set hole to power past the Indians at 17-16 and fend off the home team from there to lead 2-1.
But Kara Huber, who mixed three service aces into the game, helped her Indians rally from a 4-8 deficit in the crucial fourth set to tie Midlothian at 8-8 with the help of a couple of timely serves for points.
“I made sure that I didn’t want to rush it,” Huber said, “and took my time to breathe and then think about open spots on the court…”
The Trojans then hit away an attack by Star and a serve by Mueller to fall behind Powhatan at 11-10; they hung with the Indians up until their 17th point, but a 6-1 final stretch – which saw Mueller send a short ace scraping across the top of the netting and onto the hardwood in the 25-18 fourth-set win – set the tone for the Indians’ commanding effort in the fifth.
“The key was staying calm and not over-thinking it,” Huber said, “and just playing our own game.”
From here, Powhatan – on a 10-game winning streak – is looking forward.
“I’m just so glad to be on this team,” Huber said. “It’s great to be supported and have all the girls with you.”