Red Knights volleyball team makes school history

TORONTO – The match was a prelude to Saturday night.

The Toronto volleyball team scored first in three of the four games during its match Wednesday night against Bridgeport, but the visiting Bulldogs scored the final point in three of the four games to defeat the Red Knights 25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 25-19.

The match was played on Senior Night, and it was also Serve For A Cure Night in the Gem City.

For Toronto, the match was eerily similar to the one it played Oct. 2 at Madonna.

“It was,” Toronto (8-13) head coach Chelsey Fletcher said. “It was the same type of match.

“We start off heavy and hot with our serving and we score the majority of the points, but then we let them back into the sets.

“It is hard to beat a team three times in a season, so I am felling confident going into Saturday night.”

The Bulldogs (13-7) beat the Red Knights earlier in the season in a match played at Bridgeport.

“The game went the same way I expected,” Bridgeport head coach Ron Kelly said. “The first time we played them it went four games.

“Momentum is a big factor in volleyball. If you have it, you have to fight to keep it. If you don’t have it, you have to fight even harder to get it back. It is a momentum game. The match was back and forth. The team that had the momentum at the end won.”

Bridgeport and Toronto will play in the OVAC Class 2A Tournament semifinals Saturday night inside the Crimson Center at Big Red. The semifinals are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

It is the first time in school history the Red Knights made the Final Four.

The Bulldogs are the top seed in the tournament, while the Red Knights are the fourth seed. River, the No. 2 seed, will play No. 3 seed Clay-Battelle in the other semifinal. The two winners will meet in the tournament final, while the two losers will play in the consolation final.

“We may do some things differently on Saturday than we did tonight,” Fletcher said. “The girls are not satisfied to have won one set and to have made the other sets high scoring. They are still hungry. I am pleased about how we played tonight. Our next game is Saturday. We get to play them again.”

Kelly said the Bulldogs played their normal game, and they were not worried about tipping their hand to the Red Knights prior to Saturday’s match.

“We played how we normally play,” he said. “You can’t hold too much back. The girls have to make very quick decisions on where to pass, set and hit.”

Individually for the Red Knights, Amber Fuller collected 24 points, five kills, one block and 10 assists; Josey Jones scored 14 points to go along with five kills, four digs and one block; and Katie Spadafora delivered 14 points, 11 kills and three blocks.

Miranda Robinson recorded 16 points, one block and six assists, Chelsea Anderson added nine points, five kills and four digs; and Emily Anderson netted 10 digs and five points. Mykia West tallied four kills and three blocks and Emily Kosikowski contributed one point.

Individually for the Bulldogs, Cheyenne Flowers tallied 12 points, six aces, 11 digs, two assists, seven kills and one block; Maclaine Murad delivered 17 points, six aces, 20 digs and seven kills; and Briana Massey scored 17 points to go along with six aces, nine kills and one block.

Amber Millard recorded five points, one assist and four kills; Alysa Crook contributed one point, 18 assists and one kill; and Shannon Frey finished with one point, one dig and one kill. Mikaya Green ended up with five digs, and Vanessa Stanton collected three digs.

Kelly said the Red Knights did not do much differently in the second match as compared to the first one.

“Not really,” he said. “Their serving was better. Ours was good. One of our strong points is serving.”

Fletcher said both teams made some changes the second time around.

“We played smarter,” she said. “One thing I noticed new tonight for Bridgeport was that they changed up their roster a little bit. We probably won’t see that on Saturday.”

The Red Knights scored first in Game 1, and the hosts took an early 7-4 lead. The visitors ran off four-straight points to take an 8-7 lead, forcing Fletcher to call timeout.

The Bulldogs extended their lead to 15-9, but the Red Knights ran off five-straight points to pull within one point, forcing Kelly to call a timeout. The girls from Belmont County responded and they took a 20-17 lead, but the girls from Jefferson County tallied three-straight points to tie the score at 20.

In the end, the Bulldogs scored the final five points to win it and to take a 1-0 lead.

The Bulldogs scored first in Game 2, but the Red Knights fought back to take a 6-3 advantage before Bridgeport tied it at 6. Later, Toronto took an 11-8 lead forcing the Bulldogs to call timeout.

Following the timeout, the Bulldogs scratched and clawed their way back into the game, and Bridgeport ripped off a 9-1 run to take a 17-12 lead. The Red Knights charged back and the girls in the pink shirts closed to within 19-17.

The Bulldogs scored six of the final eight points to win the game and to take a 2-0 lead.

Toronto tallied the first three points of Game 3 to take an early lead and eventually led 11-7, forcing the Bulldogs to call a timeout. This time, the Red Knights were able to keep the momentum after the break in the action as Toronto was able to build a 16-9 advantage.

The Bulldogs fought back, and Bridgeport got as close as two points on a couple of occasions, including at 24-22, but the Red Knights were finally able to pick up point No. 25 to win the game and close their deficit in the match to 2-1.

“Our seniors did an incredibly job of leading us all year during the regular season,” Fletcher said. “They have stuck it out. They will be missed.”

The Red Knights kept rolling along in Game 4 as they scored the first seven points of the game, however, the Bulldogs were able to fight back on Crook’s serve as Bridgeport tied the score at 12. Then, a 4-0 run gave the girls in the gray shirts a 16-14 advantage.

The Red Knights battled back to tie the score at 17, but the Bulldogs regained the momentum to take a 20-17 lead. Toronto got as close as 20-18 the rest of the way before the visitors scored five of the final six points to win the game and the match, 3-1.

“It was a beautiful night,” Fletcher said. “I want to thank the pep band for coming out tonight. We raised a great deal of money. Half of the money is going to a local breast cancer center, and the other half is going to Noah Long’s family.

“I want to thank the fans of both schools. The stands were full. I want to thank Bridgeport for their help with this. They worked with us throughout on Serve For A Cure Game, and I want to thank them for that.

“I want to give a special thanks to the Horne family for spearheading the fundraising tonight. I also want to give a special thanks to Mindy Jones for spearheading another fundraiser we have had throughout the season that came to an end tonight.

“It is nice that our Senior Night is not our last game.”