PIKEVILLE – The UVA-Wise Cavaliers spoiled new UPIKE volleyball coach Shannon Gassman’s home debut Thursday night, winning the match 3-0 after eventually putting away a thriller of a third game to claim its first win of the season.
The Bears drop below .500 for the first time this season at 2-3, with a 0-1 record in the Mid-South Conference. The Cavaliers (1-5, 1-0 in the MSC) meanwhile claimed their first win under new coach Kristen Sayler thanks to a dramatic string of events in the third and decisive game.
While the Bears had been overwhelmed for much of the first two games, which they lost 25-15 and 25-16 respectively, the third game looked much more hopeful. Having stayed within striking distance in the game’s early stages, the Bears unleashed an 8-2 run and stormed into the lead. Although it looked at first like UPIKE would keep its lead, the Cavaliers showed the resolve of a team trying to win its first match of the season to stay in the contest. After Freshman Maya Hamlett made a fantastic kill to grab a 17-16 lead, the teams were never separated by more than two points again.
With UVA-Wise leading 25-24 and needing only a point to win the match, Coach Gassman called timeout to rally her troops. The Bears responded quickly by tying the game, which at that point entered the realm of a thriller. Each team alternated brilliant pieces of play with missteps and errors. A fantastic block by UPIKE freshman Chelsea Staples to give the Bears a 29-28 lead looked as though it would inspire a victory, but instead it was to be the last point the Bears scored before losing the game 31-29.
Senior Brittany Hodge (Allen Central High School) led Pikeville with 10 kills, while sophomore Taylor Watkins (Betsy Layne High School) had eight and freshman Chelsea Staples seven. Junior Stephanie Dounseroux had 17 assists and the only service ace for her club. On the defensive side Staples had two solo blocks and three assists, while junior Bailey Hamilton had one of each. Hodge paced the team with four digs while freshman Haley Johnson contributed four.