AURORA — The match appeared to be heading to a decisive fifth set.
Aurora, leading 2-1 in sets, rallied to take a 23-20 lead in the fourth set. However, Grand Island Central Catholic came back with a 4-0 run for a 24-23 lead.
The Huskies had other ideas, though, in fighting off five set points to post a 25-21, 18-25, 25-15, 31-29 home victory over the Crusaders Tuesday.
Aurora was coming off a two-match losing streak, losing to Class B, No. 2 Grand Island Northwest and Columbus Lakeview on Saturday at the Central Conference Tournament. Huskies coach Lois Hixson said it was big to bounce back, especially winning the fourth as Aurora did.
“It’s a huge confidence builder because we just came off a couple of losses in the conference tournament so to turn around and grab a win against a team that plays us well, it’s huge for the kids to know that they can win like that,” Hixson said.
For GICC coach Sharon Zavala, she said it was tough to take seeing the Crusaders give up an early six-point lead, but she thought the defense played well in keeping rallies alive. Sam Moravec had 20 digs, while Kelsie Scheel and libero Sadie Goering each had 18 digs.
“It was a frustrating game. I don’t know if the ball could have bounced away from us than what it did,” Zavala said. “We did have some bad breaks but the kids kept battling. We struggled a little bit to match up at the net, but credit our defense for digging a lot of balls.”
All night long, the Crusaders had no answers for Aurora’s Taylor Thiele. The 5-foot-11 junior had a match-high 27 kills, including 16 in the final two sets.
After Aurora trailed for most of the fourth set, Thiele had three straight kills that gave the Huskies a 21-19 lead. She added an ace block to give Aurora the 23-20 lead.
“She’s going to jump over our middles as they aren’t as tall as Taylor,” Zavala said. “We knew going in that we needed to get to the back row as quick as we can and she had some kills in the back row as well.”
Scheel served the 4-0 run to give the Crusaders a 24-23 lead. Two straight kills from sisters Haley and Emma Benton and an Aurora error brought GICC to that point.
While Thiele had a kill and a block to keep the match going, she had some help late, especially from Kiley Hixson, Lois’ daughter. The freshmen, who had 15 kills, had two in final stages to keep the match going.
Her final kill, which landed in the back corner, tied the match at 29-all, then two Crusader errors ended the match. Coach Hixson said she liked what she saw from not only Thiele but from her daughter as well.
“Taylor is definitely a leader for us,” Hixson said. “We’re trying to build around her and we did get our middles more involved in the match, trying to giving up a different look. Kiley had a big match with some nice kills, especially late. For as young as she is, she’s got some nice court sense and that’s been nice to see.”
Emma Benton led the Crusaders with 17 kills, while Moravec added 13. Lucky Gratopp had 44 set assists.
Zavala said she thought the serving wasn’t as aggressive late as it was in the second set, which GICC won.
“I thought we got away from our serving and I kept telling the girls that you needed to serve aggressively and take a chance,” Zavala said. “Sometimes we were and at other times, we weren’t. But for a young team (with only three seniors), I thought we played hard and I’m proud of the kids for battling.”
GICC will be at the Wood River Tournament while Aurora will be at the Norris Tournament, which are both Saturday.
Grand Island CC (15-10) .............. 21 25 15 29
Aurora (17-9) ............... 25 18 25 31
GRAND ISLAND CC (Kills-aces-blocks) — Sadie Goering 0-0-0, Kelsey Flaherty 0-0-0, Sam Moravec 13-0-1, Elysse Gratopp 7-1-2, Haley Benton 4-0-1, Kelsie Scheel 5-0-2, Lucky Gratopp 2-0-2, Emma Benton 17-1-1.
AURORA (Kills-aces-blocks) — Ashley Richters 0-0-0, Taylor Thiele 27-0-5, Maggie Grosshans 0-0-0, Rachel Miller 0-0-0, Kiley Hixson 15-1-0, Emily Braun 0-0-0, Alex Schneider 5-0-1, Allison Penner 3-1-1, Ashtyne Nachtigal 6-0-3, Logan Ohlson 2-0-0, Bethany Wilson 2-0-0.
SET ASSISTS — GICC: L. Gratopp 44, E. Gratopp 1, Scheel 1. A: Penner 43, Braun 2, Grosshans 1, Miller 1.