STERLING – Just when it looked like things might get away from the Newman Comets, they found a way to right the ship and pull out a win.
That's kind of the season in a nutshell for the Comets.
After watching a six-point lead turn into a two-point deficit, Newman rallied for a second-set victory and a 25-19, 26-24 Three Rivers North win over the Prophetstown Prophets on Tuesday night in the Newman High School gym.
"The game was on the line, and we knew we had to pull together to pull it out," Newman junior Aubree Schmitt said. "It's a good sign we didn't give up, that we stepped up and fought back, but we have to play with more heart from start to finish."
Newman (15-8, 9-1) looked to have things firmly in hand. Rachel Humphreys ended the first set with a block, then had a pair of kills to start the second set and keep the momentum going.
The Comets built leads of 9-3 and 14-7, with Megan Rosengren (9 kills, 8 points, 2 digs), Schmitt (7 kills, 1 block) and Bree deLong (2 kills, 2 aces) sprinkling in kills and Allison Shipman (9 assists, 2 digs) serving an ace amongst Prophet hitting errors.
Newman led 16-9 after kills from Julie Hurd (6 points, 4 digs, 2 kills) and Rosengren, then pushed it to 18-12 after a pair of Prophetstown serving errors.
"The second set is the breaking point for us," said Humphreys, who had four kills and the stuff block. "It seems like we always relax and let up a little bit, get a little comfortable with the lead, and we can't go out there like that."
Prophetstown (5-13, 3-6) took advantage, scoring 11 of the next 14 points to take a 23-21 lead. Karlie Stafford (9 kills, 6 points, 3 aces, 3 digs) had three aces in the run, while Kali Fetrow had back-to-back blocks and Clare Kramer (5 kills) ripped consecutive kills to force a Newman timeout.
"We just did anything and everything we could to keep the ball alive," Stafford said. "It's like our baby, and we have to keep it alive. We stayed positive and kept our heads up the whole match; usually, we get down on ourselves, and it gets away from us, but we stayed together tonight … especially when our backs were against the wall."
Off the timeout, a Prophets hitting error gave the Comets a sideout, and they went to work. A Rosengren kill andan ace from Kayci Howell (11 assists, 2 aces) gave Newman a 24-23 lead, then Schmitt's kill erased a service error and put the Comets at match point. A net violation on the Prophets ended things.
"Their scrambling killed us tonight," Schmitt said. "When it was bump-set-spike, we were fine, but when things inevitably broke down, they played a lot better than we did."
"We put our heads down there for awhile, and they almost got us," Humphreys added. "But we never want to lose a game, let alone a match, and we fought a lot harder and did everything we could at the end."
Kelly wasn't happy with her team's effort, but she also credited the Prophets for pushing her squad the whole way.
It started right off the bat. Stafford ripped four straight kills to give Prophetstown an 8-7 lead, then she and Kramer added kills for a 10-9 edge. Claire Milnes (4 kills, 1 block) spiked a kill for a 12-11 lead, forcing a Newman timeout to regroup.
A Humphreys kill tied the first set at 12, then Rosengren ripped a pair of kills for a 15-13 lead. Kills by Milnes and Shelby Adams tied the score again, then deLong ripped a kill and served a pair of aces after another Rosengren spike for 19-15 lead. Hurd and Schmitt added kills, then Humphreys' stuff answered a kill from Erin Heflin (6 points, 3 kills) and finished the first set.
Kate Fringer dished a match-high 21 assists, and Katlyn Shirley added three digs for the Prophets.
"It seems like Newman always gets the ball up and in position to score, and we knew we'd have to fight the whole way through this one," Prophetstown coach Arthur Wyckoff said. "We wanted to keep ourselves in every point, not give away anything easy tonight, and I'm proud of the effort we gave. We were close, and it's a good step for us."
Newman def. Prophetstown 25-19, 26-24
Star of the match: Karlie Stafford, Prophetstown, 9 kills, 6 points, 3 aces, 3 digs
Key performers: Megan Rosengren, Newman, 9 kills, 8 points, 2 digs; Aubree Schmitt, Newman, 7 kills, 1 block; Kate Fringer, Prophetstown, 21 assists
Up next: Prophetstown at Riverdale, 6 p.m. Thursday; Fulton at Newman, 6 p.m. next Tuesday