By Gary R. Rasberry
ST. HENRY -- When asked what the key was to St. Henry's winning the fourth and final game of Tuesday's anticipated matchup with Versailles, Redskins coach Lori Schwieterman had just two words.
"Betsy Hoying," uttered Schwieterman before the question was finished.
Hoying had eight of her game-high 21 kills in the fourth game to go along with three aces as the Redskins survived a tough challenge from Versailles.
St. Henry lost the first game 25-22, barely won the two middle games that went into extra points at 31-29 and 28-26, before handing the Tigers their first loss of the season with a 25-15 final game at a vibrant Redskin Gymnasium.
The win puts the Redskins, ranked second in Division IV, at 10-2 on the season and 4-0 in the MAC. The Tigers, the number-two ranked team in Division III, falls to 12-1 overall and 3-1 in league play. After two wild and wooly games that saw the momentum turn on nearly every serve, Hoying broke the final game with Versailles already leading 6-4.
Hoying took the serve and, after Bethany Puthoff spiked the ball down to make it 5-6, hit two straight aces to give St. Henry the lead for good at 7-6. Two Versailles hitting errors raised it to 9-6 before the Tigers got the serve back.
When not serving, Hoying kept putting down points via the kill, getting four kills before getting the serve back as the Redskins led 21-15. Hoying aced again before three straight hitting errors by the Tigers ended the match.
"We got the ball to Betsy and Betsy made big-time plays," said Schwieterman about Hoying's play. "I told the setters when she's in there, go to her. She was on. I don't think they had an answer for her."
The last game did not tell the tale of how the match went as Versailles scrapped all night.
In game two the Tigers were down five as late as 18-13, only to get on some runs and tied the game at 21-all. St. Henry looked poised to put the match away at 24-22 before back-to-back-to-back blocks by Mallorie Brand, Justine Raterman and then Brand again put Versailles up 25-24. Kayla Lefeld spiked the ball hard for a kill to tie things up for St. Henry, setting up seven service rotations of shifting momentum.
St. Henry went up 26-25 and then 27-26, only to have the Tigers tie things up again on both occasions. Versailles got a kill from Raterman to get game point at 28-27, but Hoying tied things up again. Raterman scored another kill to get the serve and the lead back at 29-28, only to have Hoying tie things up at 29-all. Versailles lost the game with two straight hitting errors to square the match at one win apiece.
In game three, St. Henry led 13-8 before the Tigers again started cutting into the lead, eventually tying things up at 19-all, and later 20-all before St. Henry got another cushion with the jump serve of Lefeld.
St. Henry again led 24-22 before the TIgers went to Brand for the serve and she responded with an ace to get to 23-24. Melissa Heft tied the game at 24-all with a stuff block, but Puthoff got the Redskins the lead and the serve at 25-24 with a kill. Versailles again, tied things up but St. Henry retook the lead at 26-25 when Versailles was called for four hits, although it appeared the spike was blocked.
St. Henry could not take advantage, though, as Versailles made it 26-all. Lefeld settled things with back-to-back kills to make it two games to one for St. Henry.
"In the second and third games, we couldn't catch a break," said Versailles coach Jeremy Riley. "(St. Henry) had a serve that rolled over the net and dropped. We couldn't catch a break, but we're going to take this game and make it into a positive experience. We just played right with one of the best teams in Ohio.
"That showed the character of this team," continued Riley, talking of his team's comeback. "They didn't come in here to stay with St. Henry. They came in to win this game."
"I was happy the way the girls never said quit," said Schwieterman. "Even if (Versailles) got the ball back, we were focused on getting the ball right back on the sideout. I thought our girls did a good job being focused in every game."
Raterman finished up strong with 16 kills, seven blocks and 10 assists for the Tigers while Brand added seven blocks and Heft had five kills.
"They're huge hitters, they have big swings," said Schwieterman. "They'll do well. They're a team to be reckoned with, that's for sure.
"We knew the MAC was going to be tough," said Schwieterman. "(Versailles) played a very good game. They did a lot of things well."
"I thought both teams played a fantastic match tonight," said Riley. "It came down to some intangibles that neither team could control. The last game came down to too many unforced errors."
Versailles won the junior varsity match in two games, beating St. Henry, 25-19 and 25-20.
Both teams are in MAC action on Thursday. St. Henry heads to The Palace for a matchup with Coldwater and Versailles makes the trek to Delphos to face St. John's