Clay Archer, Contributor
CHILLICOTHE — From numerous ties and lead changes, to student section chants, to two volleyball teams refusing to lose to a crosstown rival, Thursday’s non-league matchup between Chillicothe and Unioto was as advertised.
The Cavaliers and Shermans locked horns in a five-set thriller reminiscent of last year’s match between the pair. In that game, Unioto dug itself a 2-0 hole before rallying for three straight set wins.
The Shermans (2-0) used the exact same blueprint Thursday, beating the Cavaliers (1-3) by scores of 20-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-20 and 15-9.
“I felt like this was a repeat of last year where we came in on a Saturday morning and did the same thing,” Unioto coach Natalie Stulley said. “Back then, we had a group of kids that was much bigger. This year, these kids are fighters and they understand what it means to dig deep. They’re winners. Knowing how hard they’d have to work tonight, that says a lot about them.”
The first set started with a blow to the Shermans’ starting lineup. Quickly into the set, sophomore Carissa Wheeler went down with an injury. After that, the Shermans seemed to be out of sync and the Cavaliers took advantage of an opportunity given.
With Sophie Fulkerson leading the way, the Cavaliers built an 11-5 lead and used the momentum to hold onto a 25-20 win, fending off Unioto.
The second set was full of runs and momentum shifts. Chillicothe opened the sequence on a 4-0 run. Later, the Cavaliers held a 20-10 lead. But Unioto rallied, posting a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 22-19. However, the Cavaliers once again settled down, nailing down a 25-23 win and a 2-0 match lead.
That’s when the magic started to happen
After digging themselves a formidable hole on the road, seniors Amber Cottrill, Emily Coleman, and Hallie Pinkerton had seen enough.
Behind that trio, the Shermans took the momentum they gained at the end of second set and rode it to two straight set victories, forcing a 2-2 tie alongside a fifth and deciding race to 15 points.
In the fifth, the Shermans kept the train rolling by opening with a 6-1 lead, forcing the Cavaliers to call a timeout. After a few back-and-forth volleys, the Shermans eventually pulled away and sealed an improbable comeback — for a second straight year — by a 15-9 final.
Unioto was led by Cottrill, who had 25 digs and 12 kills while Pinkerton had a team-high 36 digs. Coleman tallied 21 digs, 22 assists and seven kills, Alexis Miller finished with 17 digs, and Kacey Pierce had 12 kills. Cree Stulley also helped out, ending with 10 kills and five blocks.
For the Cavaliers, Fulkerson had 20 kills and 25 digs, Payton McBee finished with 38 digs, Katie Conner logged 19 digs, and Johanna Crawford had 20 assists and six digs.
“This feels really great,” Coleman said. “We lost a lot last year, so we’ve really been working to get everyone together and tie the new pieces together. Everyone has stepped up and has done a really good job. When Carissa went down, we were a little freaked out. But we really wanted to win it for her. We always want to come into Chillicothe and win.”
The Shermans get back to action Tuesday, traveling to Zane Trace. Chillicothe will attempt to bounce back on Saturday morning at Lancaster.