Both teams needed it.
But only one could gain the victory Tuesday when the New Haven Lady Shamrocks visited Union for Four Rivers Conference play.
And it was New Haven (8-11-3, 1-2) earning its first conference win of the season over the Lady ’Cats (3-15-1, 0-3), 22-25, 25-22, 25-23.
“We won last night against Fulton,” New Haven Head Coach Jaime Hoener said. “Now we were ready to get a win on the road, which hadn’t happened in a while, too. Getting a conference win made it even better. It had to go three sets and you could have been concerned with the team’s fatigue and mental toughness. Our girls could have bent, but they toughened up and pushed through.”
Union Head Coach Kelli Bailey said she’s seen this ending too many times.
“Almost,” Bailey said. “It’s the story of our season. We almost got there. We almost had that momentum. We almost stole one from that team. If we make a mistake, it seems like it’s hard to come back from it.”
For most of the first game, it looked like Union was the better team. The Lady ’Cats jumped out to a 6-1 lead with a kill from Deseray Washington putting the teams at that score.
New Haven started to chip back, a couple of points here and a few points there.
Union’s season-long habit of giving up long runs in the middle of games continued as New Haven was able to chop into lead, scoring six points in a row, cutting it from 19-10 to 19-16.
Claire Meyer did much of the damage at the net during that run and Union didn’t have an answer for her attacks. She was responsible for three points in that rally.
Union stopped the run with a Maddie Helling kill and then worked to finish out the game. New Haven was able to stave off game point four times in a row before a kill by Makayla Bevfoden ended it, 25-22.
“I thought we were a little flat right off the bat,” Hoener said. It seemed as the night went on, we got more and more enthusiasm. We’re working on being enthusiastic from start to finish and I think it helps the girls a lot. It was good for them to show that emotion at the end. I think they were very excited to get that win.”
The second game was tight as both sides traded the lead multiple times. New Haven usually held the advantage, but never more than three points, 12-9 and 17-14.
Union came back and tied it 19-19 and then took the lead on a kill from Natalie Voss.
New Haven then rallied back to go ahead on a Union error and added on a kill from McKenzie Pecaut.
Union got as close as 23-22 down the stretch on a Washington kill, but an error and a Pecaut ace ended the game with the teams tied at one game apiece.
The third game was much like the second. The teams were tied up to 11-11. That’s when Natalie Pecaut stepped up to the service line and put down three aces in a row.
While there were plenty of points still to be earned, that was the turning point.
“That was big,” Hoener said. “We have been struggling with serving a lot lately, so it was good to get that off of our back. The kids were making plays and they stepped up.”
“It was one thing after another,” Bailey said. “They were serving around us. We couldn’t get our hips behind it and make the pass. Those were great serves, but you’ve got to be able to make that adjustment, step up and take the ball.”
Makenzie Munsinger served a pair of aces as New Haven advanced to 21-15. That’s when Union started fighting back again.
“We were down and came back,” Bailey said. “I just wish they believed in themselves as much as I do.”
New Haven reached match point on a kill by Meyer on a roll shot, but Union made the Lady Shamrocks sweat to get the final point.
Union scored the next five in a row. Haillie Brown served two aces, Helling had two kills and Bevfoden added a block.
“Before, we would have just let it happen,” Bailey said. “Last night (against Hillsboro), we let those mistakes end the game. Tonight, we made that comeback and were doing well. There is growth there. In the moment, you see the bad. There is positive. We’ve gone to putting forth all of the effort that we can to come back.”
New Haven expended both timeouts trying to stop the rally.
With Union on the cusp of tying it, Meyer stepped up again. Her last kill of the night gave New Haven the league win it craved to get off the league floor.
Both teams had normal starters out for the match. New Haven junior outside hitter McKenzie Overschmidt likely is out for the season with a leg injury. Union was playing without sophomore outside hitter Emily Gaebe.
Meyer led New Haven with nine kills and McKenzie Pecaut was next with seven. Grace Soete had three kills and Rethemeyer ended with two.
McKenzie Pecaut had 11 assists and Meyer added eight.
Natalie Pecaut served three aces. Munsinger added two. Meyer, Rethemeyer and Ellie Westermeyer each had one.
Meyer, McKenzie Pecaut, Natalie Pecaut, Rethemeyer and Soete each had one block.
For Union, Helling led the way with 11 kills. Bevfoden recorded eight. Washington posted five while Sara Ockleston, Taylor Seely and Natalie Voss each had two kills.
Seely made two blocks and Helling added one.
Helling had 12 assists and Voss ended with 11.
Haillie Brown served three aces. Bevfoden, Helling and Voss each added two.