Huston, Falls dig out win over Brookfield
NEWTON FALLS — Normally, one thinks of kills as the big statistic in volleyball, as it is an attack that is unreturnable by the opponent and leads to a point.
The dig is a defensive move to keep the ball from hitting the floor and to essentially eliminate the kill.
For Newton Falls senior and four-year starter Bree Huston, she’s made it a speciality over the years to do that work as she accumulated her 1,000th dig Thursday night at Gene Zorn Gymnasium to help the Tigers to a 3-2 victory over Brookfield in a Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference Gray Tier matchup.
“It really gets the team playing together because once I do it, they gather around and there are essentially no balls hitting the ground,” Huston said. “They are all ready to play.”
That they were, but so were the Warriors (5-6, 3-5) who took the first set 25-22 after falling behind early 6-1 before making the necessary hits and passes to essentially put Newton Falls (10-3, 6-1) behind the 8-ball.
Anna Reichart led the charge for the Warriors with 23 digs and four aces along with 15 hits. Maddy Evans added 22 digs and Bailey O’Brien had 24 assists.
“I feel like we got into a bit of a rut there,” Newton Falls coach Kristina Baker said. “We started off strong and then we got stuck in that rut and couldn’t get out of it. They came to play. They’re going to when they come to play us. They’re a good team. Teams don’t let up. It’s grit and grind.”
Still, big plays from Courtney Hankins (23 kills, 22 points), Hutson (19 kills, 12 points, 20 digs) and Lexie Drake (22 points, 11 digs) willed the Tigers back to take the second and third sets 25-18, 25-16.
“Our girls, man, they try so hard,” Brookfield coach Brooke Hiner said. “They cover and do everything and then they start to give up a little bit. This team, when you play Newton Falls, you can’t and you don’t have time to take a break. You have to push the whole entire time.
“Once our girls got momentum, got the drive, and realized who they’re playing, they brought it all back. Our girls played phenomenal tonight.”
That might be an understatement as the Tigers had essentially taken back momentum with wins in those two ensuing sets and seemed to be well on their way to a 3-1 win.
Instead, the Warriors dug deep and came together to win the fourth set 25-19.
“Our girls decided they needed to play as a team,” Hiner said. “That is what really brought us back. They started getting mad at themselves. They started walking away and going to their spots. Once they realized they needed to come back as a team, some of the kids started showing leadership and we came back together as a team. That will go as far as we need it to go.”
It was a turn of events that caught Baker off guard as Newton Falls was seemingly in control down the stretch in those two sets.
“I think we lost our focus for a while,” she said. “We fought back there in the end. That’s all you can ask for.”
In that final set, it was a coin flip essentially on who would finish out the set on top as it was tied 6-6. After the next couple of serves, the Tigers led 9-7 and had the front line and back line working to perfection to close out a 15-9 final-set win.
“We came out a little more aggressive defensively,” Baker said. “Instead of stepping back on some things, we stepped into it. We just went after it. We made some big plays when we needed to. We kept fighting all the way through the plays.
“They all played there at the end as a team. We’re going to look at Bree and Courtney there at the end. We’re going to look at them to make big plays when we need them. Courtney and Bree made some big serves there at the end. We had to fill some people in tonight and move people around. They all stepped up in those spots.”