PLAIN CITY — Ask anyone in any sport and they’ll figure out a way to tell you how that sport — and no other sport on Earth — is a game of inches.
In volleyball’s case, here’s how Tuesday’s Region 1 meeting between Syracuse and Fremont hinged on a few inches.
In the second set, with Fremont leading 24-23 and trailing 1-0 in the set score, Syracuse’s Kendree Hamblin served an ace that landed, literally, in the back corner and tied the score at 24.
Had it landed a couple inches to the left, the match would’ve been tied at one set, and it would’ve been game on.
Instead, the Titans saved a total of three set points, including Hamblin’s serve, in a tense 25-21, 29-27, 26-24 straight sets win against fellow Region 1 title contender Silver Wolves.
“It was our first time really seeing these kinds of situations and it was really cool to see us step up, do our jobs and everyone worked together,” said senior hitter Lauren Sotomayor, who provided big hitting in key parts of the third set.
Syracuse (8-2, 2-0 Region 1) won the first set — not easily, but with enough bursts of two and three points in a row to hold off the Silver Wolves (4-4, 0-1). In a moment of foreshadowing, Hamblin served four points in a row in the first set, hitting a clean ace and a service winner on back-to-back points.
Fremont won four straight points on setter Rylee Boyle’s serve to go ahead 14-12 in the second set. The Silver Wolves would go up by about three points, Syracuse would tie it and Fremont would go ahead again.
It appeared as if the match was destined for split sets when, with Fremont leading 22-20, Jade Harlan hit a serve that hit the top of the net and rolled over for an ace.
But the Titans came back and saved two set points. Kamryn Wiese won the first point with a big hit, then Hamblin served her ace to tie the score at 24.
“I think we made some adjustments defensively and ... I said ‘it’s all about your defense right now,’ they stepped up defensively when we needed to, which kept us in those and able to close out in those tight points,” Titans head coach Corrie Vigil said.
Where Fremont, led by Hoku Sagapolu’s eight kills, was winning more points off its hitting the first set-and-a-half or so, the Silver Wolves had to work harder and harder to win points later on.
Sotomayor found her groove in the third set. Leading 20-19, Sotomayor thought she had the point won with a big hit to the left that deflected off Boyle’s arm.
The ball flew to the back of the court where Brittyn Haney sprinted, dived and saved it enough that the Silver Wolves got it over the net, only for Sotomayor to bury her next hitting attempt.
With Fremont ahead 23-22, Sotomayor provided the hit that tied the score 23-23. Trailing 24-23 and facing yet another set point, Andie Thomas jumped wide and hit the ball hard enough where it bounced to the floor off the Fremont blockers.
Sotomayor and Brianna Hardy each had nine kills, one off the team high of Wiese’s 10 kills for the Titans. Haney and Hannah Stahle both picked up 23 digs to lead Fremont and Boyle had 16 assists.