GARDNER – Prior to Thursday, Gardner-South Wilmington was 4-0.
It was rarefied air for a volleyball program that has sometimes struggled to win four times during a season.
“Not that I know of,” GSW coach Melissa Cardone said, when asked if GSW had ever started that well before. “This is definitely our best start since I’ve been here. We’ve never won, to start, four matches ... It’s a good program. We have good kids and it’s finally starting to click. It’s just a tough loss.”
The “tough loss” Cardone referenced was a 25-27, 25-14, 25-18 home River Valley Conference match against Grant Park.
It was a match in which the Lady Panthers found a way to win a first game that was close the whole way, were never competitive in the second and had an officials’ decision derail them in the third.
With Grant Park leading 9-4, the Lady Panthers sent junior middle Lexi Posing to the service line.
A long volley followed her first serve, and GSW eventually captured the point. Junior setter Emily Foley then went back to serve, at which point the match was halted for several minutes.
When it resumed, the prior point was given to the Dragons, along with the serve, for the rotation error.
“I think it was tough, but I think we let it get to us too much,” GSW outside hitter Bryanna DeMoraes said.
“It was just an error in the book, and regardless we needed to play.”
GSW did close to within 17-16 of the Dragons on a Taylor Speed sideout kill, but a hitting error by the Lady Panthers cost them the serve on the next point.
Grant Park’s Tyler Gorman then served up four points in a row to effectively seal the win.
Neither team led by more than three points during the first game.
Grant Park was ahead 24-23 when a DeMoraes tip for a sideout kill and a DeMoraes service point, killed by Lexi Posing, put the Lady Panthers ahead.
Gabrielle Palan of Grant Park answered with a sideout kill, but Dragons hitting errors gave the final two points to the Lady Panthers, with Posing serving up the 27th.
In the second game, Melissa DuMontelle had a sideout kill on the first point and Alexis Sims had two service points to get the Dragons on their way.
They led from the first point on, going ahead 9-3, 13-4 and 20-9 at various points.
“Their outsides killed us,” DeMoraes said. “We didn’t transition back and we didn’t have a right-side block.
“We also were getting down, like our heads were hanging. I think we could have picked each other up more.”