UNIONTOWN — Francis Scott Key played short-handed in Wednesday’s county volleyball match against Liberty, a team the Eagles needed five sets to take down in their season opener.
FSK had seven players available against the Lions this time around, with the home team missing regular Mikayla Orwig, its top hitter and blocker, and a pair of opposite hitters in Lizzie Bertrand and Tori Haven.
And when Liberty claimed the first set, then led by 10 points in the second, Eagles fans couldn’t have been all that optimistic about another victory. Key didn’t waver, however, and rallied to win in four sets (13-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-22).
“It absolutely shows our resiliency,” said setter Olivia Zepp, who helped the Eagles (5-2, 5-2 in the Carroll County Athletic League) win their fourth in a row. “We really had to work with what we had.”
Zepp handed out 19 assists and had 27 digs for Francis Scott Key, which overcame early deficits in the second, third, and fourth sets to take control of the match. The Lions (1-6, 1-6) led 19-16 in the fourth, but FSK reeled off five straight points to grab a 21-19 lead.
A winner from Jocelyn Snader set up match point, and when a Liberty return sailed out of bounds the Eagles rejoiced.
Laura Gilford collected 13 kills, nine digs, and five blocks, while Snader had 17 digs, eight kills, and six aces.
“It really showed the kind of players that we are,” Zepp said. “Players that are playing all the way around [the court] when they don’t usually ... just the chemistry and working together really well.”
Liberty led 23-21 in the third set before Zepp posted an ace that tied the score at 24-24, and Alyssa Watts placed a shot down on the Lions’ side for set point and a 2-1 Eagles lead.
Liberty enjoyed a strong start, and played well in each set before coming up short. Emma von Riegen led the way with 17 digs and 11 kills, and Sarah Hart added nine kills. Paige Coulson totaled 23 assists seven aces, and Maddi Hagerty had six blocks.
Vicky Williams, Liberty’s first-year coach, said her squad is playing much better after an 0-4 start to the year.
“I think they’re getting used to rotations, and where the girls are supposed to be,” Williams said. “I think they just really wanted to fight for it today."
Hart is one of two freshmen on varsity this fall, and Williams also utilizes two sophomores.
“I think we’re finally starting to get into the groove of things,” Williams said.
Liberty hosts Winters Mill, another CCAL foe, on Monday. Meanwhile, Francis Scott Key hits the road next week for matches against Century and Westminster, the top two teams in the county.
Key coach Serra Berry said she expects the Eagles to be at full strength soon, and even she has been dealing with a setback. Berry said she recently suffered a concussion at practice when a hard-hit volleyball struck her in the head.
The Eagles have seemingly rallied around their coach, and their ailing teammates, amid their winning streak. FSK has already matched its 2018 win total.
Berry said working on mental toughness has been a point of emphasis last year (5-11, 4-8 CCAL) and this year.
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“It carries into other aspects of their lives,” Berry said. “I kept 10 girls ... and the 10 that I kept are very close-knit. They work really hard, they play for each other.”