Robert E. Lee avenged an earlier defeat by outlasting North Lamar in five games, 25-19, 19-25, 25-17, 15-25 and 16-14 Tuesday in a non-district match at Lee Varsity Gymnasium.
The Lady Raiders lost to the Pantherettes earlier this season in a tournament, but not this time. Led by junior Mallory Kuechle’s 25 kills and 29 digs, Lee raised its record to 17-11 while North Lamar dropped to 21-7. Lee’s Rachel Johnston had 10 kills with Kalloway Hudson finishing with 33 assists and Melissa Menard 20 assists.
Each rally seemed to take longer than the previous one as neither team could put the other away.
In the end, it was a fortunate bounce that pushed the Lady Raiders over the top. With the score 15-14 and having already been denied on their first match point, the Lady Raiders and Pantherettes again answered each other’s attacks, tips, passes over the net and sets over the net. A North Lamar hit went deep into the backcourt as two Lee players raced to try and retrieve it. Both missed the ball and nearly collided into each other.
But the ball ended up out and Lee ended up winners.
North Lamar coaches, players and fans protested that the ball deflected off a Lee player before it touched the floor, but after a conference, the referee’s call stood.
“They were both trying to get away from the ball and almost hit it, but they didn’t touch it, and I was right there (to see it),” said REL coach Melissa Lee. “We should’ve gotten out of the way or played it, or whatever. It went from ‘Oh no!’ to ‘Oh, good!’”
The Lady Raiders and Pantherettes split the first two games, but Lee looked to be in command after winning Game 3, 25-17. Taylor Winchester served six consecutive points to give Lee a 9-1 lead and maintained it from there with a Menard ace to set up game point and Kuechle emphatically hammered down a kill for the win.
Lee led 12-10 after a kill from Rachel Johnston in Game 4 when the wheels came off and North Lamar took advantage.
Morgan Flippen went back to serve and did not stop until the Pantherettes held a 21-12 lead. Nearly every point came off Lee errors as Kuechle was stuck on the back row and continuous long rallies ended up in favor of North Lamar.
“They would give us (chances) and we just didn’t take advantage of it,” Lee said of her team’s Game 4 slide. “Someone needs to step up and put the ball down when Mallory is on the back row. When we gave them those 10 points; they didn’t have to do anything, we made 10 errors.”
This set up a fifth deciding game for the match. North Lamar looked to be in position to win on a kill from Chelsea Jordan, but a net tied the game at 13-13. Another error gave REL match point. North Lamar was able to stave off the first one, but a kill by Lee’s Alexis Crowder set up another match point.
The fortunate bounce gave Lee a win this time and the Lady Raiders next face Henderson at 4:30 p.m. Friday at home.