Eagles edge Vestavia Hills in thriller
By CLAYTON HURDLE / For the Reporter
NORTH SHELBY — In a close volleyball game, sometimes the difference between a win and a loss is merely an unfortunately timed hitting error. In tonight’s match in Oak Mountain, that’s what pushed the Eagles over the visiting Vestavia Hills Rebels.
“We’ve been used to being in high pressure situations,” said Oak Mountain head coach Lance Woods, “but in a game like that, you get lucky.”
The winning point of the match came when a Vestavia mishit gave the Eagles a 18-16 win in the tiebreaking fifth set.
The 18-16 match-winning set followed another extra-points set won by Oak Mountain. The Eagles evened things up by winning the fourth set 26-24.
The visiting Rebels came tantalizingly close to winning the match on several occasions; after winning the second and third sets to go up 2-1, Vestavia never surrendered a lead of more than three points to Oak Mountain.
The first set was a cakewalk for Oak Mountain in relation to the rest of the game. After dominating their way to a 5-0 start, the Eagles put away their opponents with a 25-17 set win.
The set featured a 12-5 run by the Eagles, including six unanswered points to close out their first point of the match. It was also the only set without a single lead change.
Vestavia became the first team to open up a substantial lead in the second game of the match. After the set’s first timeout the Rebels pulled ahead to a 14-7 lead.
“It’s just like hitting a brick wall and seeing the ball come back at you,” Woods said. “We hit everything we could at that team and they just kept ringing us up.”
Oak Mountain fought back to eventually grab a 21-20 lead but it did not last long. The stout Vestavia defense held on for the last five points of the match, capped by a set-winning block from Lena Barrett.
The Rebels attempted to carry the momentum from the second game into the third but gave up a 6-1 run to Oak Mountain after scoring the first two points.
Vestavia Hills tied the game at six and 10 points, eventually taking the lead back by pulling ahead 12-10.
Emily Cosgrove and Hannah Beach kept the Eagles in the game as Oak Mountain worked its way to a 17-all tie with the Rebels.
It was the endurance of the Rebels’ defense that put them ahead for good again in the third set as they clinched the victory with an 8-3 run down the stretch.
“It was an awesome team effort,” Rebels coach Mandy Burgess said. “We did some great things in this game.”
Vestavia worked its way to a 14-9 lead midway through the fourth set. Oak Mountain’s first lead came at 20-19 and the Eagles never relinquished it.
“We decided to switch our game up to make it a more finesse game,” Woods said. “We did a lot of adjustments and the kids responded really well to them.”
The final set of the match featured nine ties and five lead changes as Vestavia and Oak Mountain battled back and forth. Although the Rebels’ largest lead of the set came at match point the Eagles made a 7-2 run to finally clinch the victory.
“We had to press it back,” Woods said. “We made it a net game for that last bit and that’s what helped us out.”
The Eagles travel to Hoover for their next match and the Rebels play next at Shades Valley.