South Kitsap was trailing two sets to one late in the fourth set against Kingston, fighting desperately to send the match to a fifth and final set.
The Wolves had just taken a 17-14 lead on a kill from Elizabeth Worden, but the Bucs were threatening to turn the momentum back in their favor with a long volley. A spike from the Kingston side looked destined to fall just inside the sideline, but junior Sydney Mudgett dove to her right and with one arm saved the shot. Setter Ashlyn Potz moved the dig over to hitter Jessica Berntson, who put it away for the point.
That was the turning point for South Kitsap. They went on to win the set 25-18, and then led the whole way in set five to pick up their second victory of the season 25-17, 20-25, 20-25, 25-18, 15-11.
“That’s a staple of this team,” coach CJ Scott said. “The last couple of years, they’d get down, and they just didn’t have a way to pull together and get it back. But this team can get it back.”
South Kitsap had the advantage early, dominating the latter half of set one with a 12-3 run that featured two kills each from Berntson, middle blocker Anna Harvey and hitter Elizabeth Worden.
But after falling behind 12-9 in set two, Kingston got hot thanks to the stellar net play of Karyss Johnson, who put away a few points with blocks and kills, and the hitting of Kylie Sandstrom, Awasis Williams and Nizhoni Price. The Bucs were without top outside hitter Marion Stejer and their experienced senior right side Maddie Seid. Both of Kingston’s matches have gone to five sets this season despite the absence of two of their best players.
“We’ve shown that we can fight,” Kingston coach Mikaela Strutz said. “We’ve shown that we can take a few matches, and we just have to figure out how to finish those matches.”
The Bucs raced to a 10-1 lead in set three with Kate McCabe on serve, continually sending short shots between South Kitsap’s front and back rows. “We practice a lot of serving to a little space on the court so that we have more room for error,” Strutz said.
Serve receive was the weakest part of the Wolves’ game Monday night. “They kept serving us pretty short, and you just have to see it and go get it,” Scott said.
The action-filled third set saw South Kitsap erase that 10-1 deficit and tie it up at 19 after a block from Worden and a kill from Megan Horn. But Price and Johnson each recorded kills for Kingston as they rode a 6-1 run to victory in the set.
After regathering the momentum in set four, South Kitsap jumped out to a 7-3 lead in set five. Kingston eventually got back to within 13-11 after Price put away another kill, but a devastating shot from Berntson landed just inside the end line. After winning one final rally, the victory was theirs.
The win moves South Kitsap to 2-1 on the season. The Wolves beat Lincoln on the road in their opener, and lost a five-set match to Central Kitsap last week. Their next matches are against Bethel and West Seattle before returning home Tuesday for a game against Emerald Ridge.