With the Port Allegany and Coudersport coming into Tuesday night’s midseason North Tier League showdown with identical 7-0 records, the crowd in the packed Gator gym had to anticipate a tight, suspense-filled match.
They got their money’s worth. Neither team led by more than four points in the first two games, with Port staving off a Coudy set point before eking out a 26-24 win in the first game, then using two big spikes by Rachel Taylor to break a 23-all tie in the second for a 2-0 lead.
The third game was just as close, with the Gators clinging to a 10-8 lead, when Jenny Shelley made one of her biggest plays of the night, leaping high to stuff an attempted Coudy spike. Momentum firmly on Port’s side of the net, the Falcons would only score twice more the rest of the way, with Taylor serving out a nine-point run to close out the match 25-10 and keep the Gators unbeaten.
“That was big. Especially a solo block,” Port coach Sharon Daniels said of her 5-6 junior setter. “On a solo block, everybody’s like, ‘Yes!’ She played big tonight. She played six-foot-tall tonight.”
The same could be said of Taylor, Port’s big hitter, who dominated the net with 18 kills and five blocks while firing six aces among her 13 service points.
“She’s playing with so much confidence this year, she really is,” Daniels said. “And tonight’s the type of game we needed for her to continue to play hot. She did a lot of different things tonight that she hasn’t been doing because she hasn’t had to, so that’s nice as well.”
Shelley notched 33 assists and added four aces among her nine service points, and filled out the stat sheet with four kills and three blocks. But for Daniels, there were plenty of standouts on this night.
“Becky Andrus (23 digs) passed on the money all three sets,” she noted. “Becca Culver (six kills, six blocks) stepped up big tonight. Actually, our other two sophomores that are double-dressers (with junior varsity). Kris-Ann Raymo was sick today and couldn’t play – she’s my starting senior – so Taylor Causer (six service points, including three aces) came in and did a great job, Racheal Causer came off the bench and did a nice job. Bethy Bernardi (eight service points, two aces) did an excellent job of coming in for Ashley Woodruff, who’s got a sore shoulder and can’t serve. Truly, this was a nice team win. It really was.”
With the win over their longtime rival, the Gators (8-0, 7-0 NTL), who have yet to drop a single game in non-tournament play, take over sole possession of first place in the league.
“Love it,” Daniels said with a smile. “We’d like to stay there all the way through – but one at a time. One match at a time. That’s how we prepare, and that’s how we look at the season. Next match, Northern Potter.”