Avalon — Yay! The Italy Lady Gladiators are now 3-1 in district play after finding a way to out soar the Lady Eagles of Avalon on their home court.
The first set was tied 9-9 before Avalon pulled away to win it 25-20. The second set was a different story, however, with the Lady Gladiators overcoming an 2-0 deficit to lead 7-3 and then 11-7 with great net play from Madison Washington, Lillie Perry, Jaclynn Lewis and Kortnei Johnson. Sophomore Cassidy Childers remained at the ready as Italy continued to press the issue and built a 17-8 advantage, forcing the Lady Eagles to take a timeout.
The break helped Avalon’s cause, but only briefly. With the score 18-12, Washington and Lewis asserted themselves with assistance from Tara Wallis, Paige Westbrook and Bailey Eubank to help the Lady Gladiators distance themselves 23-13. Avalon responded with the next 4-points to make the score 23-17 but, with Lewis serving, Italy finished the Lady Eagle’s off 25-17 to tie the match 1-1.
Eubank’s knack for being in the right spot at the right time mixed with Washington’s and Westbrook’s perseverance at the net helped Italy jump out to a 7-0 lead to start the third set. Johnson stayed primarily on the back row where her athleticism came in handy while Lewis continued her sniper-like serves.
Italy then found inspiration from seldom used stat girl, Taylor Turner, as the senior delighted fans with her determination and ability to spike the ball against Avalon’s high flying defense. With Avalon battling back, Turner ensured Italy an 11-5 edge as the fan support from the bleachers empowered Turner and her teammates to keep pouring it on.
With Johnson serving, Italy stacked up a 15-6 cushion. Avalon climbed back into the contest and tightened the deficit 21-15. Italy senior Monserrat Figueroa then took control to help setup the Lady Gladiator offense who made a final push to win the third set 25-17 and take a 2-1 set lead.
Coach Mathews stuck with Turner in the 4th set. With Avalon up 10-9, Eubank setup her strikers to tie the score 10-10. Eubank continued setting up her teammates to keep it tied 12-12 but Avalon hit their stride and to go up 17-14. Italy worked hard to tie the set again 24-24, and then 26-26, but the Lady Eagles’ bested the Lady Gladiators 28-26 to tie the game count 2-2.
With the match requiring a 5th and deciding set to break the tie, the Lady Gladiators seemed relaxed and confident while their fans were on the edge of their seats. Fortunately, the Lady Gladiators got to work quickly to build a sizable lead and reach the fifteenth point mark before the Lady Eagles could to give Italy a 3-2 match win on the road.
A group of Italy fans then formed a victory tunnel outside the lockerroom to congratulate the players, coaches and manager April Lusk as they exited Avalon’s dome. Thanks Bailey, Kevin, Tyler and Zain and the rest of our fans that helped lengthen the line!
Next up, the Lady Gladiators will challenge Blum at home on Saturday, September 28, with the JV game starting at 10:00 a.m. followed by the varsity game at 11:00 a.m.