East rallies to beat St. Joseph in five games

East's Katlynne Wilson celebrates a point during Tuesday's match at home against St. Joseph. Victoria East edged out the Lady Flyers in five games after dropping the first two and saving eight match points in the third to survive.

The gym thinned a little after 8:30 Tuesday night. The volleyball match between Victoria East and St. Joseph was not over - far from it - but, apparently, those who left knew something before everyone else.

At that moment, the Titans rallied to win a third game where they faced eight match points.

St. Joseph at one point led 24-20 in the pivotal third game. But the Titans scratched their way out the hole, in the game, and the match to eke out a 23-25, 21-25, 30-28, 25-20, 15-8 win over the visiting Flyers.

St. Joseph co-head coach Allyson Griffin said her team must develop the mental toughness to finish matches, and when they don't to fight through it.

"That's something we teach our kids all the time," Griffin said. "You never take anything for granted. No one is going to lay down for you and give you a game. I think they learned that lesson tonight."

East middle blocker Amber Howell ended the third game with a kill in the middle of the court. The senior only had five kills on the night, but she ended the match with an attack that caught the line.

"We just didn't give up in the third game," said East's Morgan Lienemann, who led all players with 15 kills. "In the fifth game, if we would have lost it, the third and fourth games would have been a waste."

Lienemann said the Lady Flyers played better defense in the first two games. She praised her opponents for getting the Titans' attacks up.

After East (4-1) hit through a two-person block in the fourth game to take a 15-14 lead, they did not trail again. St. Joseph was never within five points in the final game of the match.

St. Joseph's Lauren Kurtz said the Flyers (7-3) entered the match optimistic after they finished second in the Shiner volleyball tournament over the weekend. Going forward, the junior said her team can work on ending matches when they can.

"In the first two we pushed our hardest and worked hard," said Kurtz, who had 18 digs and 10 kills in the loss. "In the third game we took advantage of that and let up a little bit. We didn't finish the third game so we could win it in three."

Carly Boles led the Flyers in kills with 12. Fellow senior Analise Ybarbo had nine kills, nine blocks, and five digs in a losing effort. In addition to Lienemann, Destani Villarreal and Carly Moran also had double-doubles for East.

Villarreal had 23 assists and 10 digs, while Moran hand 15 digs and 10 kills.

Tuesday's match provided bragging rights in local volleyball circles. Neither team wanted to say it, but they didn't want to lose to another school in Victoria.

Each time the Flyers couldn't end the match the noise in the East gym rose exponentially. Whether it was St. Joseph missing an attack by inches, or a Flyers front row player inadvertently touching a serve, or Lienemann stepping up with a kill, the crowd bellowed in approval at each match point saved.

Seconds before St. Joseph earned its first match point, East head coach Jamye Pauley told her team she wanted them to move their feet and play better defense. Though, it might have all appeared lost for the night, her girls listened to those lessons just in time.

"I felt we have all come together and meshed together," said East junior hitter Katlynne Wilson, who finished with five kills and two blocks. "We have come a long way and we know we'll do well."