Hiland Volleyball

Claymont stuns Hiland with huge late comeback

Keanna Avery dominated down the stretch to lead the Mustangs to victory

For the Hiland Lady Hawks, a key Inter-Valley Conference South volleyball game seemed as though it was a sure check mark in the win column against a talented Claymont team on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at Hiland High School.

But in the time that it takes Mustangs hitter Keanna Avery to crush a kill, a win was gone, and Claymont had somehow managed to pull off a stunning five-game win by a score of 21-25, 25-21, 21-25, 27-25, 15-10.

“They have a lot of will. That is what they are good at,” coach Shannon Viebranz said. “They have fought like that all season long, and they have never quit. We have a lot of great girls on this team, and we won tonight as a team. We had a lot of people step up in big situations, and one thing about this group is that they never give up.”

Trailing two games to one and down 9-0 in the fourth game, a win looked all but sewn up for Hiland. However, the Lady Hawks seemed to begin to play not to lose at that point, and the offense went south. Avery started heating up in a huge way as Claymont sensed there was life. Avery also got plenty of help from her teammates, and the Mustangs crept back into the game, but Hiland was still in command at 12-6. However, Avery was about to go nuts.

A pair of Avery kills and a nice block by Reagan Norman spurred Claymont to a rally that tied the game at 12. Nikki Keim recorded a kill for the Lady Hawks, and after another Avery kill, Hiland appeared to right the ship by reeling off six straight points to go ahead 19-13. That nifty run was spurred by senior outside hitter Elizabeth Keim, who stepped in and played a key role for Hiland.

Again Claymont was behind the eight ball, but again they responded as Hiland began to settle for trying to dink balls over the net, a no-no against a team with weapons like Avery.

“This is not a good feeling,” Hiland head coach Adri Bryk said. “We started playing not to lose. You can’t play this game to be safe. You have to be willing to put yourself out there and make mistakes. You have to dare to be great and challenge yourself and know that you can risk it all and whatever happens, happens.”

Soon it was 19-16, and after Madisynn Bryk drilled a kill for Hiland, Avery delivered a big hit. Mackenzi Veltschy then hammered home a pair of winners, and Hiland’s lead was 20-19.

Hiland forced the issue again as Mya Blochlinger came up with two straight kills, and Madison Yoder served up an ace. Hiland was on the brink of victory.

With a couple of unforced errors and two more Avery kills, suddenly the two teams were deadlocked at 23, then at 24 and again at 25. Hiland then served a ball into the net to put the Mustangs ahead 26-25, and Avery delivered a thunderous hammer to end the game and send it to the fifth game.

Avery recorded four of Claymont’s first five points, but Bryk, Nikki Keim and Elizabeth Keim all got kills for Hiland, and when Elizabeth Keim delivered again, the teams were even at 6-all.

However, the wheels were about to fall off for the Lady Hawks. Two unforced errors, a kill from Ryleigh Ronald and a service ace from Norman moved the Mustangs ahead 10-6. When Hiland hit one out, it was 11-6, and Claymont had forged a huge lead with Avery located in the back row, a time when the Lady Hawks should have been taking advantage.

“We knew what we had to do, which was capitalize when Avery was in the back row, and we just didn’t do that,” Bryk said. “That was disappointing.”

However, Hiland showed they weren’t done yet when Elizabeth Keim recorded yet another kill and Claymont made two errant plays. The teams traded hits that went wide, Claymont leading 12-10. With Avery now back in the front row, Claymont didn’t hesitate to go to her, and she delivered three powerful kills that ended the game 15-10 in favor of the Mustangs.

“We didn’t do a good job of running the offense we wanted to run,” Bryk said. “The hope is that we use this as a learning experience and learn that every single play matters. We had every opportunity to put this game away, and we failed to do it. Unfortunately we have seen that a couple of times recently, where we have given away big leads. We need to be able to step on teams when we have them down.”

The win moves Claymont one game ahead of Hiland in the Inter-Valley Conference South division, where Indian Valley remains firmly entrenched in first place with one loss. Claymont now has a pair of defeats while Hiland lost its third league game with one game left in league play.

“I am so proud of these girls and their willingness to hang in there and keep fighting,” Viebranz said. “That just shows you what kind of team this is.”

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