Erika Kuehn took the set on the left pin, hit the potential match-winning shot crosscourt, and waited.
Even she wasn’t sure how this affair between Eastern A volleyball rivals was going to turn out.
When the official ruled the ball in, Kuehn and the rest of the Billings Central Rams could celebrate a 25-15, 22-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-13 victory over the Laurel Locomotives at the Nelles Activities Center on Saturday night, a match that seemed to pivot on a dime and where neither team could rally grasp control.
“We showed tonight that we don’t let down easy,” said Kuehn, who had 12 kills. “We keep pushing and pushing until we get it done.”
Of course, the same could be said of the Locomotives, who were two points from losing the match in set four before winning the set and who trailed 6-3 in the fifth set before taking a 13-11 lead.
The Locomotives (7-2 overall, 1-1 Eastern A) still had a shot in the end despite being outhit – the Rams had 57 kills to their 34 – and having been a victim of 16 aces.
Central, though, scored the last four points of the match behind the serving of Kehly Grosulak. The Locomotives also lost a golden opportunity to seize control of the match when they failed to hold an 8-0 lead in set three and instead would up trailing two sets to one instead of leading by that margin.
Laurel coach Jen Ebright said that set was a momentum-changer.
“We needed to take advantage of that lead, but we just kind of let up a little bit,” said Ebright, whose team beat Miles City on Friday. “They came back and then we had to fight them for it.”
Justyn Juhl had a match-high 17 kills for the Rams (7-0, 1-0), while Hadley Baylee had 46 assists and six aces. Nicole Wilden had 16 digs.
While her Rams had 23 more kills than Laurel, coach Liz Hanser said her team needs to cut down on the unforced errors, a tendency both sides exhibited throughout the match, especially early on.
“We have a lot of work to do,” she said. “We have to start hitting (better), and I think we will. But they did good. They came back.”
Amanda Taylor had 14 kills to lead the Locomotives, and Abbie Lohoff added nine, including her final one that gave Laurel a 12-11 lead in set five, which moved to 13-11 with a Central error on the next point. But consecutive Laurel errors allowed Central to tie the set before a Grosulak ace and Kuehn’s final kill gave the match to the Rams.
“I thought there was a touch, but I wasn’t quite sure,” Kuehn said. “I just waited for the call, and it was in. So it was great.”