Pilgrims top scrappy Cougars in 4

PLYMOUTH — New Prairie’s stout defense made Plymouth earn it, but the Lady Pilgrims rose to the occasion.
Plymouth battled back from a 25-11 loss in the opening set to hand the Lady Cougars a four-set defeat, 11-25, 25-23, 25-18, 26-24, in a scrappy Class 3A Plymouth Sectional quarterfinal Thursday at The Rock.
The Pilgrims now move on to face Culver Girls Academy — which bested Jimtown in three games in the opening quarterfinal Thursday — in the late semifinal at the Plymouth tourney Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
“It was just a huge win for us, to lose the first game very convincingly — they came out with great defense and beat us very handily in the first game — and then to kind of regroup and play three very good games,” said Plymouth Head Volleyball Coach Doug West. “I thought we played very good defense, we attacked well at the net, we served consistently, and we started to win some long rallies like they were doing early on.”
“It’s a big win,” he continued. “I’m just thrilled for the girls. It’s fun to advance. New Prairie is just a very skilled and talented team, athletic team, so we knew we were going to have to play some great volleyball consistently to win, and I’m happy that we did.”
Plymouth dug itself a big hole early in the first game and never recovered to go down a game, 25-11. But the Pilgrims started out strong in the second set, ultimately outlasting New Prairie as the Cougars were penalized for a line foul and gave up the game point on a passing error at the tail end of a back-and-forth second game that featured 10 ties.
Plymouth jumped off to a 5-1 lead in the third game, but New Prairie fought back to knot the game at 7-all and it was nip-tuck most of the way before a pair of kills from outside hitter Andria Shook and middle hitter Amber Redinger cued an 8-1 game-ending run that included five straight points to put the Pilgrims a game up.
The match-deciding fourth set was a game of runs as the hosts jumped off to an initial 6-2 lead and grabbed several other leads of up to six points, but each time the scrappy Cougars battled back to stay within striking distance, eventually gaining the upper hand at 24-23. After some scary moments during a long momentum-swinging rally lasting more than a minute, middle hitter Carly Baker’s attack went unanswered to knot the game at 24-24, and Redinger put down a pair of kills on sets by freshman Haley Harrell to secure the extended victory, 26-24.
“In those long rallies, what’s going through my mind is if we can get the ball to our setter and get a really strong swing — I believe the team that wins the long rallies is the team that gets a strong attack at the end. They don’t tip or hit off-speed,” said West. “So I’m just thinking we’ve got to get the ball to Haley and get our hitters a really good swing, and that’s our best shot at winning the rally. And that’s of course what happened there at the end. We got the ball to our setter, she set a two ball, and Amber took a nice full cut at the ball and scored, and I’m thrilled.”
Plymouth’s balanced net attack was paced by Shook’s 12 kills, followed by Redinger’s 11 and Marissa German’s 10. Harrell finished with 39 assists on perfect 132-for-132 setting, while Kelly Hoeffler went 15-for-15 serving with two aces, and Mikayla German led in digs with 12 followed by 11 apiece from Shook and Harrell as the Pilgrims notched their 20th win of the season. The team moves on to face CGA at 12:30 p.m. Saturday following the opening semifinal between defending champion Mishawaka Marian and St. Joseph’s at 11 a.m. The championship is set for 7 p.m.
“I’m really proud of the girls for winning three games in a row that are close, and we had to really fight in long rallies against a really good team,” said West. “I’m proud of them, and I think it bodes well for us. We ought to have a lot of confidence going into Saturday.”
• PLYMOUTH 3, NEW PRAIRIE 1 (11-25, 25-23, 25-18, 26-24)
At Class 3A Plymouth Sectional
Plymouth stats
Kills: Andria Shook 12, Amber Redinger 11, Marissa German 10
Aces: Kelly Hoeffler 2
Assists: Haley Harrell 39
Digs: Mikayla German 12, Harrell 11, Shook 11
Blocks: Redinger 4 BS, 2 BA; Carly Baker 1 BS, 1 BA
Record: Plymouth 20-14