PATCH GROVE - If their five-game thriller played on Sept. 20 was any indication of what was to come, fans new last Thursday night’s Six Rivers West volleyball match between Potosi and host River Ridge was going to be a good one.
The two teams certainly didn’t disappoint either, as the Timberwolves gutted out a 3-1 victory over the previously undefeated Chieftains to claim a share of their first conference volleyball title in the program’s 16-year history.
“It’s been a goal since I started coaching here six years ago,” said River Ridge coach Dianne Langmeier. “Then, we were second from the bottom and I thought it would be great if we could be conference champs some day. Now, to actually be able to say that we are conference co-champs, is an awesome feeling, and I’m so proud of the girls.”
Both teams concluded the regular season with identical league records of 11-1, and for Potosi, it was their first conference volleyball title since 2008.
“It’s not exactly what we had hoped, but it’s not like Ridge doesn’t deserve it,” said Potosi coach Sydney Kittoe. “They are a good team and they had to earn every point against us Thursday night.”
Game one saw the two teams play to an 11-11 tie before the host Timberwolves started to pull away.
Coach Langmeier’s squad held a lead of 14-11, that was quickly cut to 16-15 on a kill by Ashley Flesch.
River Ridge then responded with three straight points to take a 19-16 lead, then closed out the game with a 25-16 victory.
Coming up huge for River Ridge in the first game was senior Claire Webster, who on several occasions had either a big kill or a big block to keep momentum on the side of the home team.
Game two saw Potosi jump out to a 10-5 advantage, and the Chieftains maintained a comfortable lead from that point on to claim a 25-15 victory.
Game three was without a doubt the momentum game of the night, as both teams fought feverishly to come out victorious and claim a 2-1 advantage.
After being tied at 7-7, River Ridge jumped out to their biggest lead of 17-10, and appeared to have things under control.
That’s when coach Kittoe’s squad came storming back.
With River Ridge holding on to a slim 21-18 lead, their top hitter in Claire Webster, went to the bench in tears with an ankle injury.
Webster, who had sprained one ankle earlier in the year, was still dealing with a sprain of the other ankle from a week ago.
With her on the bench in obvious pain, it didn’t look good for the Timberwolves.
Potosi took full advantage of the situation and despite facing game point at 24-22, they fought their way back to an exciting finish and tied the game at 24-24.
Potosi eventually served four times with game point, holding leads of 26-25, 27-26, 28-27 and 30-29.
River Ridge had only two serves for game point at 29-28 and at 31-30 before pulling out a 32-30 win on a tip kill by Traci Kirschbaum.
With the two teams tied at 26, Webster entered back into the game, but in the excitement of her return, was called for an illegal substitution, giving Potosi a point and a 27-26 lead.
The Timberwolves fought off the penalty and road the shoulders of their top hitter to an exciting victory in game three.
“When she came down on it (ankle) I thought we were done. Without her we couldn’t have done it,” said coach Langmeier of Webster.
“She was a trooper to come back in and play on it. The fact that she came back, and that the other girls got in their and rallied and did what we needed them to do. Every body just did a good job of covering each other’s back,” Langmeier added.
“We made costly errors in the third game,” said coach Kittoe. “We had more than one opportunity to put that game away and we just couldn’t do it. I felt that was a huge momentum builder for Ridge, and they were able to carry it over into the fourth game.”
“That was a momentum swinger, and that really helped I think going into that fourth game,” coach Langmeier agreed.
“But I give it to Potosi, they gave it their all and they came back and almost gave us a scare in the fourth game.”
River Ridge used the momentum of their game three win to close out the match with a 25-23 victory in game four, as none other than Webster put down the game-winning kill.
Webster finished with a team-high 18 kills and eight blocks, while Kirschbaum added 17 kills and four blocks.
Ashley Flesch led Potosi with 17 kills, while Rylie Bausch finished with 12. Maleah Mumm and Kate Mish each had 10.
River Ridge improved to 18-1 overall heading into the D4 regional tournament, where they are the No. 1 seed. Potosi is the No. 2 seed in the same regional.
The two could meet again on Saturday, Oct. 22 with a regional final on the line.
* While Potosi swept Highland last Tuesday night prior to their big match with River Ridge, the Timberwolves took down Cassville in three straight games.
* On another note, River Ridge’s Traci Kirschbaum was named the MaxPreps/AVCA High School Player of the Week for the week of Sept. 26-Oct. 2, where she recorded 30 kills, five blocks, six digs and three ace serves in three games.
River Ridge 3, Potosi 1
(from Thursday, Oct. 13)
Potosi 16 25 30 23
River Ridge 25 15 32 25
Kills - P: Ashley Flesch 17, Rylie Bausch 12, Maleah Mumm 10, Kate Mish 10; RR: Claire Webster 18, Traci Kirschbaum 17. Blocks - P: ; RR: Webster 8, Kirschbaum 4. Digs - P: ; RR: Kelsey Martin 22, Chelsey Knapp 18. Aces - P: ; RR: Angie Breuer 1. Assists - P: ; RR: Breuer 18, Rachel Henkel 18.