CRETE – Holy smoke! What a high school volleyball match this was.
The York Dukes survived by the skin of their teeth in a five-set heart-stopper on the road against a double-tough bunch of Cardinals at Crete on Tuesday, 21-25, 25-21, 25-20, 19-25 and 20-18 in the unbelievable fifth set.
The Dukes trailed 11-8 early in game one before tying it at 13-13, 14-14 and 15-15 … all on kills by Duke senior Aleah Rosenau. Sarah Stephens got an ace serve, Erica Koehler added a kill and Rosenau got another, but a net call against York on game point put the Cards up 1-0.
The second game saw York trail early before tying it on a kill by Erica Malleck. One from Stephens, then an ace by Rosenau and another Stephens kill preceded yet another Rosenau ace. Stephens drove the ball straight down for her team’s 25th point.
Game three went York’s way, too, but not before the Dukes fought back from 11-4 down to the Cardinals.
A Rosenau kill put York up two, 15-13, and the Dukes went on to lead 21-16. York’s 24th point of game three came when Rosenau absolutely clubbed a Crete overpass straight down. A four-hits call against the Cardinals ended it with York up 2-1 in sets.
Game four saw the Cardinals rally to even the match at two sets apiece by pulling away from a 10-all tie. A York serve into the net put Crete at set point, which came on just one of the 30-plus kills from the Card with the cannon arm, senior Kaitlyn Bradley.
All of that exhausting excitement paled compared in a game five that saw Bradley go on an absolute rampage for Crete.
The teams deadlocked at 10-all on a rotation infraction against Crete, but on came Stevens with two clutch kills to put York ahead 12-11. Incredibly, Rosenau dished up successive ace serves to make it a lead of 14-11 for the Dukes.
Successive kills by Bradley tied it 14-14, then Crete went up 15-14.
Then down the stretch it was match point one way, a heroic save by whichever team needed one, then a repeat of the drama.
Koehler came up huge in the final stages of the fifth, holding off four match points with key kills.
Fittingly it was Koehler’s ace serve that finally brought the curtain down on a truly terrific volleyball match.
When the ace fell on the Crete side, Koehler and the Dukes collapsed into a tearful heap at midcourt.
We needed that more than anything,” said Coach Kayla Makovicka of the stirring win. “We’ve been down in a slump,” she explained, “and there’s no better way” to get out of it “than win a fifth set 20-18.
Makovicka had only admiration for the performance by the Cardinals’ Bradley. She said the Dukes knew all about the big hitter and worked on a block to use … but to little result.
“Our blocking struggled tonight. Otherwise I think we could have controlled her a little better,” she said.
Crete fell to 8-24 while the win brought the Dukes to 13-14 on the regular season, which is now in the history books. Both teams play next Tuesday and Thursday in the B-4 District tournament at Lincoln North Star where it’s entirely possible they’ll meet again as the second (York) and third (Crete) seeds, although that won’t be officially known until the seedings are announced by the Nebraska School Activities Association.