Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher’s Peyton Devlin spikes the ball past the outstretched arms of Ashlie Sherwood, left, and Samantha Piippo.
By Jon Johnson
THATCHER – The atmosphere was electric as the Thatcher Eagles and Pima Roughriders volleyball teams clashed in the season opener at Thatcher High School on Tuesday.
The Eagles drew first blood this season, taking a hotly contested match in three sets; 25-22, 25-23, 25-17.
“It was a team effort,” said Thatcher head coach Kim Orr. “I feel like our serves did real good at keeping them out of (their) system most of the time. So, I think that was really to our advantage.”
The roaring gymnasium was at near capacity but one could hear a pin drop during the moment of silence for Maci Reed, 4, prior to the start of the action. Reed died in a flash flood incident in Pima in July.
The teams appeared equally matched, especially in the first two sets as neither could build a lead of more than three points. Pima opened up the scoring going up 2-0, but kills from Olivia Lunt and Peyton Devlin, along with an ace by Devlin, knotted up the scoring at 3-3. There went on to be 11 ties in the first set alone.
Pima looked to have the upper hand going up 19-16 on a kill by Ashlie Sherwood, however, Thatcher rallied after an errant serve behind two kills by Lunt to tie it up at 19-19.
Again, Pima pushed forward, going up 22-20 and forcing a Thatcher time out. Another errant serve opened up the door for the Eagles, and they flew through, taking the first set 25-22 when a shot went out of bounds.
In the second set, Pima found themselves down early, 2-5, after two consecutive aces by Devlin. Pima came back behind a huge block from Ashlyn Thompson, who ended up sending two balls back into Thatcher’s court in the set.
Thatcher was up 18-17 after another Lunt kill, but Ashlie Sherwood nailed two kills in a row to put Pima back up 19-18.
With Thatcher up 22-21, it was Pima’s turn to take a time out. Coming out of the break, power hitter Saydee Allred changed up a shot and slipped in a tip to tie the set at 22-22. Thatcher retook the lead on an errant serve by Pima and a kill from Lunt. Thatcher then had its own errant serve and was up 24-23 when Laney Morris put the set away with a thunderous kill, 25-23.
“When she’s on, she’s on,” Orr said about Lunt. “She’s our go-to (player) when she’s on.”
The teams had played mostly error-free until the third set when multiple errors and bad serves were made by both teams.
Pima took a timeout down 14-18, and another one down 16-23, but couldn’t recover and Thatcher swept the match with the third set 25-17 victory on an errant serve.
“It’s a whole team effort,” Orr said. “It takes everyone to do the job and get a win.”
Thatcher will next travel up north to face the Blue Ridge Yellowjackets on Thursday, Sept. 2, starting at 6 p.m.
Pima will next host Eastwood High School from El Paso, Texas, on Friday, Sept. 3, starting at 3 p.m.
Thatcher and Pima will face each other again on Sept. 23 in Pima.