The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Raiders edge powerhouse Chadron in dramatic fashion

 

At set point in overtime of the finale, after yielding momentum to Chadron in the two previous sets, after watching the visitors take the game to the brink moments earlier, the Red Raiders had one thought on their minds.

In the words of Cody Rowley, “We cannot lose this.”

Coming off the weekend’s disappointing performance at the conference tournament, Sidney’s thrilling five set win over the 18-1 Cardinals was a lesson in character. After shocking the visitors in the first two, 25-22 and 25-20, the Raiders failed to hold onto early leads in sets three and four.

Up 8-3 early in the third, they fought in vain as the visitors rallied to take a 25-20 win. The series evener was more of the same. Sidney jumped out to a 9-4 advantage and appeared certain to close things out. But the Cardinals began to answer—and then to dominate the conversation, eventually taking the fourth set 25-19.

“We got too relaxed,” Courtnie Highland admitted. “But we never gave up.”

That was evident in the critical fifth. Neither team managed more than a two point advantage as they traded point for point in a desperate battle.

Down 13-12, freshman Kelsey Knight dug out a Chadron hit. Rowley settled under it and lofted it up for Abbi Porter, who found an open spot along the Cardinals’ back line. Moments later, Highland and Savanna Rosenbaum formed a wall above the net, forcefully blocking a kill attempt—and handing the Raiders set point, 14-13.

“We had to do something to get the lead back,” Highland said. “It was exhilarating.”

But it was also short lived. Chadron’s Ashlea Kerr wiped out the home side’s advantage with her play at the net. And her teammate, Jadyn McCartney, scored from the line to nudge the visitors back on top, again at set—and match—point.

McCartney’s next serve caught in the next, knotting the game at 15-15.

In big moments, a team needs veteran nerves and perhaps a little unexpected freshman spirit. The Raiders relied on both as the contest reached its climax.

With Emily Mahr serving for the hosts, Chadron set up the kill neatly. But Rowley rose at the net and parried Maaryn Davis’ smash, putting Sidney back on top 16-15.

“Our team is aware Maaryn is an amazing outside hitter,” Rowley said, attributing the right place, right time play to training. “It was a momentum changer.”

Chadron drilled Mahr’s next serve toward the back line and young Kelsey Knight. The freshman, seeing significant playing on the varsity squad for the first time, drove low to dig it out.

“I was like ‘I have to get it,’ Knight said, explaining her thoughts in the do or die moment. “This was the point.”

She popped the ball toward the net and senior Sarah Mahr, who decided to fling it with both hands deep into Chadron territory. Her first consideration was safety.

“At least get it over the net,” she said of her strategy. “I thought that I had to push it. I honestly thought it was going out, but it was in.”

The ball dropped into an untended space, just inside the back line, securing the set, 17-15, and game, 3-2.

The win over one of the panhandle’s top teams may not have washed out the bitter taste of Sidney’s 1-2 weekend at conference, but it certainly proved their confidence had not been shaken.

“The girls worked hard,” observed Raiders head coach Sarah Wilson. “We needed to redeem ourselves.”

Sidney came out strong from the start, pulling ahead of the Cardinals in set one on the strength of Maddi Porter’s steady libero work, Abbi Porter’s power at the net and a block by Annalise Lecher that gave the hosts a 16-11 lead.

Abbi Porter and Rosenbaum were equal to all challenges at the net. The pair combined for 34 kills and 14 blocks. Behind them, Rowley (22 digs, 22 assists), Sarah Mahr (20 digs, 19 receives) and Vanessa Riley (13 receives) provided stability throughout the evening.

Chadron entered the game as an 18-1 team, and their quality showed as they clawed back into the fray. The Raiders fended off a challenge at 21-21 when Highland fed Rosenbaum at the net. Moments later, Rosenbaum ripped a shot through three defenders and Sarah Mahr closed things out with a pinpoint ace that pricked the back corner as two Cardinals watched.

The Raiders took the opening set 25-22 and the next by a slightly more comfortable 25-20, Abbi Porter recording the winning point with a neat tap. Sidney carried this confident play into the third, until Chadron broke an 11-11 tie and never looked back on their way to their own 25-20 win.

“Chadron is a solid team,” Wilson pointed out.

Despite the setback, Sidney battled throughout. Down 21-14, with the game slipping away, Rowley scrambled into the first row in order to save an errant hit. After maintaining the volley, the Raiders captured a point for her efforts, thanks to Abbi Porter’s presence along the nylon.

“Last year this team’s motto was ‘relentless pursuit,’” Rowley said. “Coach is always telling us to pursue everything.”

Sidney clung to Chadron until late in the fourth set before falling 25-19 to set up the dramatic conclusion.

“This was good for us,” Wilson said. “Chadron made us a better team.”

The win improved Sidney's record to 15-9 on the year. Sidney returns to action on Tuesday, Oct. 22 when they host Gering at the Cabela's Center.

 

Chadron 22 20 25 25 15

Sidney 25 25 20 19 17

 

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