By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
ELIDA — In a game where neither team could take control, it seemed fitting that a setter ended up with the final blow.
Fort Sumner made good on its fifth chance at match point, as setter Rita Herrera’s bump took a slow bounce off the net and onto Elida’s side of the floor, capping off a 25-18. 19-25, 19-25, 25-18, 18-16 victory Thursday night at Elida High School.
Fort Sumner (9-6, 3-1 District 3-1A) picked up a key victory in the district race with 15 kills for Julie Wood and 25 assists from Herrera, as Vixens coach Lisa McMath felt the win was part of a season-long maturation process.
“We have three freshman out there half of the time,” McMath said. “(There has been) a lot of growing up.”
Fort Sumner looked every bit like the defending Class 1A champion in the first game, when they jumped out to a 20-9 lead and withstood a late 8-0 Elida run. The next two games had Elida repaying the favor by jumping out to huge leads and then holding off late Vixen comebacks.
“I thought they did a good job of keeping the momentum of the game,” McMath said of Elida. “They served aggressively.”
But Elida (6-6, 2-2) couldn’t keep the momentum long enough to close the match out, as the Vixens won the fourth game behind five kills from Wood then jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the fifth game.
Both teams had chances to win the match in the fifth game, which featured eight ties and five lead changes.
After Elida took a 15-14 lead on a block by Lindsey Ward, the Vixens scored four of the game’s final five points with kills from Wood, Bree Lucero and Herrera.
Though Elida had the chance to win in the fifth game, coach Darrell Chenault felt the team didn’t make the most of its previous opportunities to put the Vixens away.
“We had the lead in the fourth game and the fifth game,” Chenault said. “We had them on the ropes and just let them go. A lot of our ‘youngness’ came out.”
The loss is a rough start to what will be three matches in six days. Elida faces Dora on Monday and Melrose on Tuesday.
“I told (the players) that we have to be hungry,” Chenault said. “Our goal is to keep homecourt advantage (for the district tournament) and that’s still attainable.”
Fort Sumner will host Floyd Tuesday.