Gering outlasts Sidney for chance at state tourney
     2011-11-10      By Pedro Escobar, Special to the Citizen   
BAYARD — The Gering Bulldogs volleyball team found itself in familiar territory last Thursday: in the District B-6 championship match, with the winner getting a bid to the state tournament.

The Bulldogs achieved a district championship a year ago, in a thrilling five-game win over Scottsbluff in which they rallied from an 0-2 game deficit.

Gering looked to repeat as district champions, this time against the Sidney Red Raiders at the Bayard High School gymnasium, in hopefully easier fashion.

However, Sidney had already beaten Gering twice in the regular season, which would give any team confidence heading into a big match like this one.

When all was said and done, Gering won the first two games and Sidney won the next two to force what turned out to be a thrilling fifth set, won by the Bulldogs 20-18.

“Both were unique matches,” Gering coach Craig Schadwinkel in comparing the two district title matches. “Last year we had the writing on the wall and heading into the fifth set we thought it was ours. This year I think it was more dramatic, with 11 rotations and five match points. This was a real dogfight.”

Gering jumped out on top in the first set by establishing a 4-1 lead, but Sidney held its own and brought it close to a 4-3 game. The Bulldogs took control after that and slowly extended the lead to 18-13.

Sidney kept pushing the game closer, however, getting within one and making it a 19-18 game. The next stretch had Gering outscoring Sidney 6-2 to take the first set 25-20.

The second set started back and forth, with each team keeping it within one or two points and exchanging leads. After a 13-13 tie, Gering went on an 8-0 to really put a dagger into Sidney and open up a big 21-13 lead.

The Bulldogs would eventually claim the second set 25-19, going up 2 games to 0 and one set shy of winning districts and going to state.
“I think we came out with the mental preparation of what we needed the kids to do, and I felt they did that,” Schadwinkel said. “They came out very aggressive and set the tempo.”

Up against the wall, Sidney had to dig deep and really grind it out for two sets to push for a possible and final fifth set.

Set No. 3 started tight once again. Once Sidney took a 9-8 lead, the Red Raiders never lost the lead and kept Gering from celebrating a little too early.

The Red Raiders won Game 3, 25-19, staying alive for one more set.
“I think our kids got relaxed and got a little tentative at the net,” Schadwinkel said. “And I think Sidney realized the opportunity and decided not to lose by giving it their best effort.”

Gering came out cold for the fourth set and the offensive flow was sluggish, which gave Sidney a quick 4-1 lead to open up the game.
A big block by Sidney gave the Red Raiders a 5-3 lead after it seemed that Gering was finally settling down.

Finding themselves down by two, the Bulldogs pushed the ball over and Sidney was not able to save it, bringing Gering to within one at 6-5.

The Red Raiders quickly responded after senior Amy Christensen dove to save a hit but could not keep the ball in play. The very next play, Sidney got a kill to go up 8-5 and give itself a little breathing room.

A second consecutive kill gave Sidney a 9-5 lead, and they really pulled away after getting a block, going up 10-5.

The Bulldogs tried to compose themselves but had a mishit on the next play to fall behind 11-5 and forcing Schadwinkel to a call a timeout. One set away from going to state was slowly fading away and Gering was making it easy for Sidney to push it to a fifth and final set.

Nothing good came after the timeout for Gering. Sidney gained an even bigger lead and easily took set No. 4, 25-16, to tie the match at two games apiece.

Both teams were now just one set away from winning districts and going to state. Gering was looking to do both for a second straight year, and Sidney was attempting to do so for the first time since 2003.

After being down two sets to none and avoiding defeat in two straight sets, all the momentum was favoring the Red Raiders heading into the fifth set.

“We looked back at our six losses and it was our unforced errors that allowed the other team to win,” Schadwinkel said. “This time they played together and forced Sidney to make the unforced errors. We were able to bring the pressure onto the court, and I think they held that mentality.”

A good shot by Christensen opened up the fifth set for Gering, going up 1-0. Senior Morgan Broussard then hit a slap shot that bounced off a Sidney player, giving the Bulldogs a quick 2-0 lead in the fifth set. Sidney bounced back soon after with a point of its own.
Christensen then hit the ball to the Sidney back row for a 3-1 lead. The Red Raiders would not go away, however, making a one-point game once again.

A net violation gave Gering a 4-2 lead. Sidney then hit a wide shot that went outside, giving Gering a 5-2 lead.

The very next play, Christensen got a good hit and Sidney tried to block it and keep it in play but it went out and opened up a nice 6-2 cushion for the Bulldogs.

Two quick strikes by Sidney brought them within two. Sidney then got a good hit, and Gering senior Darci Kaufman tried to dig for the save but she couldn’t get it. Sidney thus made it into, yet again, a one-point game.

The Red Raiders finally tied the game at 7-7. In the next play after senior Morgan Greene got a piece of the ball off a Sidney hit, The Red Raiders took their first lead of the set 8-7.

Greene then made up for it by getting a big kill to tie the game up. After a mishit by Gering and a block by Sidney, the Bulldogs found themselves down by two to Sidney in this pivotal Set No. 5.

Sidney was now just five points away from going to state for the first time in eight years. After Sidney took a 10-8 lead, Gering called a 30-second timeout to allow the Bulldogs to refocus and take a deep breath.

Senior Kayleigh Schadwinkel got a kill coming out of the timeout to Sidney’s lead to 10-9. Greene then served up an ace that tied the game at 10-10. Sidney then answered back with a hit down the middle, taking an 11-10 lead. Gering then attempted a block on the next play but could not get it back over the net. Sidney was now up 12-10 and three points away from winning districts.

Luckily for the Bulldogs, Sidney hit the ball into the net on the next serve to make a one-point game. Sidney then got another good hit and made it a 13-11 game.

A block by senior Kenzie Duncan on the next series kept the Bulldogs alive and also kept the Red Raiders from reaching match point.
Unfortunately for Gering, match point is what Sidney would get after another good hit fell through for the Red Raiders.

Sidney was now one point away from claiming the Class B District Championship and a bid to state.

A tip shot by Broussard, however, kept the Bulldogs alive 14-13. Sidney now had its second match point. But a ball pushed over by Gering fell in and tied the game at 14-all on a crucial play for the Bulldogs. The Red Raiders quickly responded and scored, getting their third match point of the set.

A huge block by Greene on the next play tied the game up at 15-15. Gering went for another block on the next series but it didn’t go the Bulldogs’ way. Sidney went up 16-15 and now had a fourth match point in the set.

A mistake by Sidney off a hit by Gering senior Stephanie Coley hit tied the game up yet again, keeping the Bulldogs from elimination for a fourth time.

Gering finally got its first match point at 17-16 after Sidney was not able to save a shot.

After a timeout by Sidney, two Gering players ran into each other on the next play, which caused the ball to drop and give the Red Raiders the tie, 17-17.

Sidney then went on top after getting a hit on the Gering backline going up and getting a fifth match point.

Broussard set up Greene on the next play and Green answered with a great hit to tie the game at 18-all and avoid elimination.

A stumble by Sidney caused the player to touch the net, and that unfortunate play for the Red Raiders gave Gering a 19-18 lead. Sidney was now facing elimination.

On the next play, Gering served up a good shot, but Sidney returned the ball wide. Gering got the point and won the game 20-18.

The Gering Bulldogs showed grit and went through five match points by Sidney to come back and win the not only the game, but the Class B District 6 championship, and bid to the state tournament.

“I think our senior court experience played a big role, plus the closeness of this group of seniors what really carried them through this match,” said Schadwinkel, whose team improved to 29-6 and earned a No. 5 seed in the Class B State Tournament that starts Thursday in Grand Island.

Citizen sports writer Terry Gaston contributed to this report.

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