Bobby Martinez – Staff Writer –
Ever since their 13-game win streak was snapped, the Owls have gone 1-5, losing by an average of two sets. The Owls (16-5) got back on track last weekend, defeating Southern New Hampshire University 3-1 and then pulling out a 3-2 win over a tough opponent, LeMoyne College (12-4).
The Owls took a quick lead in the first set and held on, leading 20-17 late in the set. LeMoyne looked much more energized than their opponent during the closing points of Set 1, however, Olivia Lathrop and Jade Black stepped up with two crucial blocks to give Southern the early 1 set to zero lead.
The Owls surrendered the first seven points to open the second set, finally getting their first point off of a Kimberly Lachowicz kill. Southern then used a much-needed timeout to avoid an even larger early deficit. Coming out of the timeout, Lathrop and Black scored on back-to-back spikes.
LeMoyne did a good job of capitalizing on the Owls’ mistakes and took a 14-7 lead in the second set. Lathrop sparked the Owls offense with a few shots that cut the deficit to 15-9. They would eventually lose set two by the score of 25-17.
The Owls again fell behind early in the third set, again trailing 4-0 right away. Despite being down early, they looked much more focused and rejuvenated this set. The Owls trimmed the lead to 9-7 with a pair of clutch blocks from Kelley Gunneson. Syriah Celestine and Black took over from there, tying the score at 16-16.
Celestine scored three straight points, giving the Owls their first lead of the set at 19-16. Jade Black finished the set off to give the Owls a 25-21 set three win and a 2-1 lead overall. The Owls were beginning to play like the team that had won 13 straight games.
Head coach Lisa Barbaro said that LeMoyne came out with good energy, but that the Owls’ serving game was a big difference in the game.
“We kept them out of their offense and that was a major key for us to set our defense up and be in the right spots,” she said
LeMoyne played with urgency in the fourth, quickly jumping out to yet another early lead, this time 8-0.
The Owls seemed to feed off of the energy of the Pelz home crowd, cutting the lead to 11-7. It didn’t prove to be enough, though, and Southern lost the fourth set 25-15 to tie the match at two sets apiece.
In the pivotal fifth set, the Owls jumped out to a 4-2 lead and never looked back. The Owls defense seemed to communicate much better, diving for digs and setting each other up.
The extra effort led to a 15-10 final set win and a well-fought victory.
Celestine, a senior, said that she realized that her team did play sloppy at times but also that they fought very hard to pull through and get the victory.
“I think practicing really hard and working together is a big key for us to win. In the beginning we started off slow but as the game went on we picked it up, especially in the 2nd, 4th and 5th,” Celestine said.
The Owls’ next test will be against AIC, who Southern defeated earlier in the year 3-2.
With the season reaching its final month every game is very important as the Owls look to claim the top spot in the Northeast-10. They are currently fourth.