Volleyball: Gillett tops Lena in 5-match comeback

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Seniors play crucial role on senior night

Greg Bates, Times Herald correspondent

The five seniors on the Gillett volleyball team have played key roles in the program during their careers. It was apt that they were instrumental in a comeback victory on senior night on Thursday.

With Gillett trailing Lena 2-1 in sets, the Tigers regained momentum in the fourth set. From there, they dominated in the fifth set to earn a 3-2 win, 22-25, 25-18, 20-25, 25-17, 15-9, in Marinette & Oconto Conference play.

“We’ve been on a not-so-good kind of a streak, so this is a big win and hopefully we get rolling off of that,” Gillett senior Willow Pecha said.

This isn’t the first time this season the Tigers have had to climb out of a hole, trailing by at least one set.

“We’ve been down two and come back and won the third and fourth and not held it in the fifth — I would say three of four matches in conference this year,” Gillett coach Keri Hicks said. “It was nice to see them do that. It was nice being on our own home court.”

In an evenly matched game, the teams started off the fifth and decisive set with Gillett up 4-3. The Tigers scored six of the next seven points as Pecha had back-to-back kills to make it 10-4. Faith Sorlie registered a kill to make it 13-7, and Sophia Horsens followed suit to put Gillett at match point. The Tigers closed out the set with a 15-9 victory.

“We really focused on our passing and every single fundamental,” Pecha said. “We really wanted to focus on that, our serves especially.”

Hicks saw her team move the ball well in the final set, which made the difference.

“We didn’t necessarily pass it that great all night, but we were passing well enough to set, and Willow (Pecha) came alive and she hit well,” Hicks said. “I just told them all night, ‘Don’t just put it over on a tip, attack the ball strong.’ And I think when it’s close or you’re down, they don’t want to do that.”

Lena (5-9, 5-8 M&O) took the opening set by breaking a 20-20 tie en route to a 25-22 win. Gillett (7-6, 6-6) bounced right back in the second set with a 25-18 victory. After the Wildcats took the third 25-20, the Tigers knew they had to turn things around quickly.

“In our little huddle we got everyone going and really encouraged each other,” Pecha said. “The bench was pretty full of it tonight, so that helped a lot, too.”

To get her players motivated for the comeback in the fourth and fifth sets, Hicks pulled her team together in the huddle.

“I talked to them about what athletics is about, and it’s about character,” Hicks said. “Do you just lay down or do you handle when things get tough? That’s how life is going to be. Show me some grit and let’s see what you’re going to do in your future. Yeah, it’s about wins and losses here, but it’s about developing that character and those skills. They just decided to pull it together.”

Lena had Gillett on the ropes for a brief time after the third-set victory but couldn’t take advantage of its opportunities in the fourth and fifth sets.

“Serves and communication is a big thing with us lately,” Lena coach Heidi Place said. “We’ve had a breakdown in communication when we play. Last week we played a great game against Coleman and this week it was just another communication breakdown. Serves are getting better, but communication is a big key to this game.”

Gillett finished the match with 47 kills, paced by Sorlie’s 10 and Pecha’s nine. Sorlie had a team-high 27 digs, followed by Horsens with 15. Megan Wolfe tallied 17 assists and a team-leading four aces.

Lena was led by Ally Demmith with 10 kills, eight digs and four aces. Makayla Bushmaker recorded 17 assists.

With the postseason one week away, the Gillett players are hoping their comeback victory over Lena will carry over into a solid playoff push.

“That just shows tonight that we can do it,” Pecha said. “We can finish games, we just have to encourage each other enough to do it.”