By Ben Murphy
Farwell trailed two sets to one during Wednesday night’s Jack Pine Conference volleyball opener against visiting Clare. The Eagles, who were mired in several unforced errors for most of the night, pulled themselves together in time, claiming the last two sets to win in five, 26-24, 16-25, 23-25, 25-20 and 15-12.
“I know the season is young but we’ve shown it enough that we’re not going to quit,” Farwell head coach Jacob Sullivan said. “We had our backs to the wall but we showed that we weren’t done. They’re not afraid of anybody.”
The Eagles stormed out of the gate to open the night, claiming the back-and-forth first set 26-24. Early in the set, Jessie Theisen broke a 6-6 tie with a spike to make it 7-6 and Caron White drilled three straight spikes to put the Eagles up 10-6.
Clare rallied, behind an ace by Blythe VanBuskirk to pull even at 10-all, with the Pioneers eventually taking an 18-14 lead on a net-foul.
White responded with four kills to spark a Farwell run to give the Eagles a 20-19 lead, though a Becca Fisch ace and a Farwell attack error put Clare up 23-22.
The squads exchanged side-outs until Clare’s Cassidy Campbell spiked the ball to tie the game at 24-all, but Farwell won the set by getting a Theisen spike and Clare attack error.
The Eagles started the second set strong as well, adding two hard White spike-kills to lead 2-0 but things quickly unraveled, thanks in part to three straight kills by Clare’s Laura Walton to help put her team up 12-7.
“We’ve typically been coming out quick,” Sullivan said. “Game one, we’ve pounded people. We went into the second set without the go-get-it attitude. We had a lot of unforced errors.”
Walton blocked a hard White spike late in the set for a point to make it 23-14, helping Clare hold on to win 25-16.
“The girls came through tonight and played great,” Clare head coach Emily Blackburn said. “As our first conference game, they were excited and their actions showed it. I haven’t seen them play like this all year. We are moving in the right direction for sure. There has always been that Clare-Farwell rivalry and that neither team wants to lose this match.”
Farwell led most of the third set, taking a 19-16 lead on a White spike-kill, though Clare dominated the rest of the set, sparked by a Walton tip-kill and back-to-back aces by Fisch that made it 22-19. Late in the set, Kendra Robison delivered a well placed tip-kill to bring the Eagles within 24-23, but a side-out gave Clare the 25-23 win.
“We very easily could have laid down but they decided they didn’t want to quit,” Sullivan said. “The girls were really motivated to get this win from Clare. Especially the seniors, they wanted it because they weren’t happy with how we played against them in recent years.”
Clare jumped to a 5-0 lead in the fourth set, but a 10-point scoring run, led by the serving of Kate Saupe put the Eagles ahead 10-5. Saupe started the run with an ace and White added six kills. Perhaps the most impressive of White’s kills on the night occurred with the set tied at 5-5. White soared towards the net and drilled a spike for what looked to be a sure point, but Clare’s Kyrsten Kruskamp rose to the net to block the ball back to the Farwell side. White alertly spiked the ball again, this time finding the floor, putting the Eagles up 6-5.
White later added two aces to put Farwell up 14-8, but despite her heroics Clare would go on to take a 19-18 lead on a side-out.
Robison had back-to-back kills to help Farwell regain the lead at 22-19 and Theisen added an ace at 23-19. Farwell finished off the set in dramatic fashion, when sophomore Dani Hanna dove to dig out a hard Clare serve. Hanna not only dug out the serve, but sent it sailing back over the net and to the ground to equalize the sets at two-apiece with a 25-20 win.
“She saved us in the fourth set,” Sullivan said of Hanna. “She played six balls in that set that were a result of a lot of hustle. She put her arm out and got it on the ball. She’s with us for a reason and she showed it tonight.”
In the decisive fifth set, the teams exchanged attack errors until Clare’s Cassidy Campbell erupted for three straight kills to put the Pioneers up 12-8.
Saupe drilled a spike-kill to end the run at 12-9, setting up Theisen at the service line. Theisen delivered strong serves the rest of the way as the Eagles whittled away at the Clare lead.
First, Hanna delivered a spike to make it 12-10. Then, Saupe added another spike to bring it to 12-11. Robison blocked a strong spike for a kill to tie it at 12-all and a Clare attack error put Farwell up 13-12. Theisen delivered an ace to set up match-point at 14-12 and Saupe positioned a tip-kill that hit the floor to finish off the come from behind win.
“When we quit battling ourselves our passing was where we wanted it to be and we were good at the net,” Sullivan said. “When we get a chance to run our offense it’s tough to stop us.”
White led the team with 24 kills and five aces, Lauren Ringwalt led the team with 31 assists and five digs, Saupe had two blocks, four digs, five aces and 17 service points and Theisen had six digs and 12 points.
“We’re riding our seniors right now and they’re doing great,” Sullivan said. “They’re carrying the team and showing the true leadership I need out of them.”
Campbell led Clare with 15 kills and two aces, Walton had 11 kills, six blocks and three aces, Kenzie Humphrey had 17 assists and one ace and Becca Fisch had four aces and three kills.
“Walton and Campbell were on fire tonight,” Blackburn said. “The girls played hard and they communicated well, we just need to do both of these at the next level and we can get our wins in.”
On Monday the Eagles played a non-conference game at John Glenn, topping the Bobcats 25-12, 24-26, 25-22 and 25-21.
White had 16 kills, Ringwalt had 25 assists and Saupe had five aces.
On Saturday Farwell played at the Montabella Invitational, going 1-3 on the day. In pool play the Eagles fell to Central Montcalm and Beal City before topping Montabella. Farwell’s day ended with a loss to Vestaburg in bracket play.
Farwell (7-6-1 overall, 1-0 JPC) plays at Beaverton on Wednesday.
Clare (0-1 JPC) hosts Gladwin on the same day.