Girls volleyball: Law recovers to defeat Foran High
As the music was ramped up over the sound system at Foran High’s Edna Fraser Gymnasium, Jonathan Law girls volleyball coach Stacy Loch's feet began to move.
Then she set her legs in motion. Her pre-game dance routine might've have been brief as her Lady Lawmen concluded preparations for the second of two regular-season encounters with city rival Foran, but it didn't go unnoticed by the team's scorekeeper Frank Ramos.
Never one to miss getting in a quip, Ramos said, “Are coaches supposed to dance in front of their teams?”
Loch just smiled in response.
A little over an hour and a half later, Loch was more in the mood for a celebratory two-step as the Lady Lawmen defeated the Lions, 3-1.
It accomplished several feats.
First, it avenged a 3-0 loss in early September. More importantly, the victory marked Law's eighth win and entrance into the upcoming Class L state tournament.
For the Lions, it loss was the team's fourth in succession. After starting out with eight wins in nine games, the defeat dropped Foran to 8-5.
The irony was that Law stumbled badly at the start, falling behind 12-1 in the first set.
Asked what she was thinking at that time, Loch said, "Seriously?"
"We haven't always played well in these matches with them," she added. "But, from the time we lost that first match against them, we never stopped thinking or doing some planning for the re-match.
"I think it was a combination of nerves and not communicating. We had to pick it up, and we did. We had to play smart defense, then get the ball to the net with good passes and finish from there."
Led by long service runs from Stephanie Felag (four straight winners) and Liv Kowalski (five winners with two aces thrown in), Law got back in the game and cut Foran's lead to 14-12.
The Lions pushed their lead out to five points three times (at 19-14, 22-17 and 24-19) before winning, 25-23 on a kill by Briana Brassell.
And, when the Foran propelled themselves out to a 3-0 early lead in the second set, it began to look like a short night for Law. Midway through, the Lions held a 16-10 margin before Law came back.
The Lady Lawmen drew even, at 19-19, on a Foran service error before taking the lead when Colleen Goodwin put enough spin on a ball near the net that it slid along the top and fell to the floor, alluding any hands near it.
Foran would then pull ahead twice more, at 21-20 and 23-22, but the Lady Lawmen proved resilient. Even after they relinquished the lead one more time at 25-24, they came up with a strong finish. Tied at 25-all, Law scored the final two points, one on a kill by Felig and the other on an unforced error.
The swing in the match's third game began going Law's way after the teams were deadlocked at 9-9. Maddie Bucko produced five service winners and her team nudged out to a 14-9 lead.
Law went on to a 25-16 win and a 2-1 advantage.
The final and deciding fourth game was a classic battle right to its conclusion.
Law had built up a 23-16 lead only to see the Lions come right back.
Foran closed to within a point, 23-22, in its battle to ward off elimination.
Then two, crucial errors opened the door for Law's victory.
"I decided not to call a timeout when they got close," Loch said. "I wanted to leave our players on the floor to see how they would respond.”
Goodwin finished with 13 kills. Felig and Shawna Winters added nine each. Winters also had six digs.
"This is a big win for us," Goodwin said. "Beating them and getting into the states at the same time is great. We might not have started out like we should have, but then we dug in, found a consistency in our game that we needed and went from there. Our passing, hitting and serving all fell into place. It seemed like every aspect of our game got better after the bad start."
Foran coach Julie Johnson spoke in measured tones after the defeat.
"Way too many unforced errors," she began. "Law played a great game. Their servicing was strong and they just didn't allow too many balls to fall to the floor. They absolutely took us out of our game."
The four-game lapse concerns Johnson.
"Right now, we're trying to find ourselves," she said. "It's up to them."
Leading the way for Foran was Katherine Kiernan, a strong middle hitter who had 13 kills. Chipping in was Brassell with seven.
The team's libero, Alyssa Deptulski had 17 digs and added two service aces.
Jillian Montano had three aces.