For the second time this season, the Ravenwood volleyball team had the upper hand against six-time defending Class AAA champion Brentwood.
And for the second time, the Lady Bruins found a way to battle back and win.
The Brentwood girls captured a seventh consecutive District 12-AAA championship by defeating Ravenwood 19-25, 27-25, 25-20, 25-15 Tuesday at Independence and they did it without star player Shaye Eggleston.
“Everybody had to step up,” said Lady Bruins senior Piper Drazek, who was named the district tournament MVP. “Everybody just kind of took on a little bit more to make up for not having Shaye. I mean, she’s such a weapon on our outside.
“I think we felt the pressure from the, ’we have to win,’ feeling and they threw us out of our system, but we fell back on our discipline and reached out to one another to get out of that hole.”
Drazek set 40 assists and added 12 digs, three aces and two blocks. Rylie Kael finished with a team-best 16 kills and 14 digs. Mary Oldham, Zoe Oldham, Hollye Tate and freshman Dylan Sulcer were among the other Lady Bruins who helped offset Eggleston, who injured her ankle in a sweep of Summit in the semifinals earlier Wednesday.
The Lady Bruins were lost without their leader in kills, digs, blocks and aces early and Ravenwood exposed them, cruising to a 25-19 win in the first set.
“I thought we were toast,” Brentwood coach Barbara Campbell admitted. “We have depth and we have talent, it’s just we have always relied on Shaye. When she went down, we kind of questioned our abilities for a while, but then we stepped up on our serve and that got us back in the game.”
The Lady Raptors, who fell 3-2 in the first meeting this season, took a 18-15 lead in the second set after Tanya Sichling sent a kill down the left side. Campbell called a quick timeout to try and re-focus her team, but Ravenwood kept the momentum. The Lady Raptors reeled off four more quick points on an Abby Burton kill, Brentwood hitting error, Madison Bidwell ace and Sichling block on the outside.
Ravenwood was fired up and so was the Lady Raptor faithful.
“I think we just had a lot of energy going into the match and a lot of motivation to beat them,” said Lady Raptor senior Carly Cooper, who finished with 20 assists, four kills and 14 digs. “Overall, I thought we played really well. We just got tired, but I know we can hang in there.”
That seven-point Ravenwood lead shrank to 23-22 after back-to-back points from the freshman Sulcer, who started in place of Eggleston and had five kills, 11 digs and a pair of aces. Still, Ravenwood seemed to have the edge even after a hitting error gave Brentwood a 24-23 advantage. Cooper followed with a highlight reel play, scrambling for a dig and popping up for a thundering solo block to pull her team even at 24-24. The Ravenwood bench and fans in the stands ignited on the play.
A Brentwood hitting error made it 25-24, but Cooper placed a ball just on the line for another tie. The Lady Raptors then had a back row hit go into the net and Zoe Oldham completed the comeback with a service ace as Brentwood claimed the second set 27-25 to stun Ravenwood.
“It took a little bit to get our confidence back,” Drazek said. “I honestly think we just kind of out-talked them as the match went on. They got quieter and we all kind of jumped on that and used that.”
Pouting was the term Lady Raptor coach Abbey West said during a timeout.
“You have to stop pouting and feeling sorry for yourselves,” she told her players. “Be a competitor. Push.”
Ravenwood rebounded, but only showed spurts of the team from the opening game as fatigue from the four-set battle just prior against Page also began to rear its head.
“We are exhausted,” West said afterward. “We got extremely fatigued and the emotions just overcame us.
“I’m still proud of what they did. We did what we had to to do, playing one match before and getting into this one.”
Bidwell closed with 19 kills to lead the Ravenwood attack.
Brentwood junior Shaye Eggleston is the District 12-AAA Player of the Year, while Abbey West of Ravenwood is the Coach of the Year. pic.twitter.com/FUywmcRqvA— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) October 10, 2019
Brentwood used a couple big plays from Drazek to build a 12-8 lead in the third game. That lead never dipped below three the rest of the way as Tate and Kael closed out the Lady Raptors for a 25-20 win. In the fourth, it was Tate and Kael again who powered back-to-back hits through the Ravenwood block for another 12-8 lead. This time, the Lady Bruin lead stayed at four or more. Mary Oldham had four kills and a block early in the set.
“That connection and bond we had toward the end of the second set, that just boosted us through the end of the match,” said Oldham, who closed with 12 kills on .429 hitting with three blocks. “This is just a huge confidence boost for all of us going into regions.”
In the early semifinal, Brentwood powered past Summit 26-24, 25-17, 25-11. The Lady Spartans won a game in each regular season match this season against the Lady Bruins, but after the tight finish in the first set, errors stacked up against them in the next two games.
Eggleston finished with 11 kills and 11 digs despite exiting early in the second set after injuring her ankle. Both Mary Oldham and Kael had 10 kills apiece, while Haley Sanders had 13 digs and three aces.