CONNORVILLE Buckeye Local and Martins Ferry battled for 5 sets in their first meeting and both ended their regular season in another 5-set battle, scoring 229 points along the way as the Panthers finally took the win by an 18-16 tally in the deciding fifth game.
The Panthers would win the opener 25-20 then drop an epic second set in which the two squads combined for 60 points as the Purple Riders outlasted their hosts, 31-29.
Buckeye Local would battle back from a deficit in the third game and go back ahead with the 25-22 win.
BUCKEYE LOCAL’S Kayla Fillipovich, right, prepares to spike the ball against the defense of Martins Ferry’s Shaina Oberdick Thursday night in high school volleyball action. Additional images can be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
The Purple were determined and took an early lead in game 4 never looking back forcing a fifth and deciding set with a 25-18 win.
Momentum was on the Purple side of the court and they again would rally early to a 7-2 lead. The Panthers would get a side out and run up 4 unanswered before knotting the rubber match at 8 even. Buckeye Local moved ahead 9-8 for their first lead but Martins Ferry rallied
back to a 10-all tie and then took a 12-10 advantage.
The Panthers found their backs to the wall 14-12 when the two sides traded service errors and the hosts evened it up a third time at 14 apiece.
The Purple Riders were again poised to finish the evening as they led 15-14 with the serve but another service error brought it back to 15 all. Martins Ferry regained composure and went up 16-15 with a second chance to put it away but the last two volleys went to the Panthers as they sent their seniors off in winning fashion.
"It is a great tribute to our four seniors on Senior Night to come back and win a tough match," said Buckeye Local head coach Shelby Luther. "They pulled together and rallied the team, they truly deserved this win.
"For this program to fight, when I first came here this kind of comeback would have never happened," Luther said. "This group truly has turned the program around, they believe in themselves, they believed they could pull it out and we finished the season at 10-10, which is the best record here in a while."
For Chuck Probst's squad, it was a disappointing end to a disappointing season, "We knew it would be a tough game tonight, Every time we play Buckeye it is a heck of a game," said Martins Ferry's coach.
"Our game plan was to keep them off balance and keep the ball away from ( Kayla) Fillipovich," Probst added. "I thought we accomplished that for the most part.
"Both sides put their hearts into it tonight," Probst concluded. "It was the last game of the regular season for both teams and neither one of us wanted to end it with a loss."
Fillipovich, a senior, led the Panthers net game with 14 kills and 3 blocks. Senior veteran Kaylee DeCesare kept the Panthers in play with 24 digs and 3 assists while junior Morgan Staten dug up 23 with 12 kills. Senior Becca Rector helped out with 20 assist, 5 kills and 4 digs, Sophomore Lexus Fedorko finished with 16 points on a pair of aces, set 13 and dug up 7 while senior Amy Balik served up 14 points with 2 aces, notched 6 kills, 6 digs with 2 assists for Buckeye Local.
Martins Ferry senior Shayna Oberdick notched 13 kills, Tyrah King had 12 of the deadly spikes, Jesse Probst added 9 kills and Cassie Hanson tallied 17 points and compiled 10 assists, 7 kills and 9 digs. Dakota West covered the back court with 29 digs, Lauren Bennett dug up 17 while Brooklyn Monroe added 10 digs. Shaye DeLeonardis had 15 assists 5 kills and 5 digs for the Purple Riders as they close their season ledger at 7-12.
The Panthers will face off with Steubenville on Monday in D II Sectionals at St. Clairsville while the Purple Riders will kick off D III Sectional action Tuesday in Meadowbrook against Shenandoah. Both matches are set to start at 6 p.m.