DECATUR – Bellmont played much of Tuesday night's first-round sectional match from behind.
So when No. 3 Bellmont (25-5) led the fifth set of the Class 3A Bellmont Sectional opener 10-6, leading to a timeout from No. 7 Heritage (26-6), coach Craig Krull reminded his team the Patriots had surely thought that they were on the brink of victory 20 minutes earlier.
Krull was right to remind his team that this roller coaster of a match still wasn't over – the Patriots won the next two points, and crawled back to tie the set at 13. But Bellmont won the final two points and the bench and student section rushed to the pile of players on the court in an unbridled celebration of the 19-25, 25-21, 24-26, 31-29, 15-13 victory.
“A lot of it was our team coming together in the huddle, making sure that every point we gave someone a high-five, touching everybody,” said Braves middle hitter Meg Saalfrank, who had 27 kills. “Everybody has a big role. People coming off the bench were a huge deal for us. To be able to come out and battle back – I honestly, I didn't think we'd be able to do it.”
The Patriots lost 3-0 when the teams met in August, but quickly showed this match would not be like the last with three straight points to claim the first set.
Bellmont had a set point, up 24-20 in the third set, that would've given them a 2-1 advantage, but the Patriots reeled off six-straight points to win the set instead.
In the fourth set, Heritage took a 19-10 lead.
But Saalfrank had kills on four of the next eight points, igniting a Bellmont comeback that would turn the fourth into a marathon set.
“Meg's an unreal middle hitter for the size she is. She's so fast, and so experienced. I think a lot of time she expects to get the ball and I want her to get the ball, because she's so dynamic,” Krull said. “She knows that against bigger kids she has to be a little more dynamic, and watching her progress throughout the year, she's playing at a different level.”
Sophomore outside hitter Delaney Lawson had 16 kills and Avery Ball had two aces. Paige Busick had 32 digs, well beyond the 14 she needed to pass the 1,000-career mark. She joined Emma McMahon, who passed the same landmark in the final weeks of the regular season.
Bellmont advances to face Muncie Burris (24-6) in the sectional semifinal at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“The two things that we probably need to clean up are our serving and our service passing. Heritage was serving rockets, and we were struggling,” Krull said. “I think our serving could be a little more aggressive. It's a mentality thing. But I think spirit-wise and energy-wise, we were right where we were supposed to be. But just the little things we need to clean up”