GC wins in four, forces rubber match
By Dustin Kent747-5065 | @PCNHDustinKentdkent@pcnh.com
PANAMA CITY — When Gulf Coast fell to Pensacola State in four sets Sept. 28 in Pensacola to fall behind 2-0 in the five-match season series, the Lady Commodores had little reason to believe they would be heading into the final week of the season with a chance to win the Panhandle Conference title.
But after Wednesday’s four-set home win at the Billy Harrison Field House, that’s exactly the chance they will get when they head back to Pensacola for a fifth and deciding match Oct. 26. Gulf Coast won 25-14, 22-25, 25-21, 25-19 to level the season series 2-2 and set up the rubber match for a conference title and a berth in the state tournament.
“We’ve got one more,” Gulf Coast coach Kristian Robertson said. “It hasn’t happened (before). (Pensacola State coach) Chris) Laird has been coaching six years and it’s never gone into a fifth (match). It didn’t go into a fifth when I was here. We’re excited for next Wednesday.”
Robertson said some of her players had been under the weather going into Wednesday’s match, but she couldn’t have been much happier with how they performed in a match that they had to win to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“They came through and battled it out,” she said. “I can’t ask for anything more. We keep progressing as a team and getting better and better.”
The Lady Commodores (16-6) have now won six matches in a row, while the Lady Pirates (21-5) have now dropped three of their last four. That losing skid started with a dominant three-set win by Gulf Coast on Oct. 12 in which GC outscored Pensacola State 75-40.
It looked as though Wednesday’s contest could be equally lopsided after the Lady Commodores rolled through a nearly flawless first set for a 25-14 victory. But Pensacola State responded with some clutch points to earn the second-set win and level the match.
With the second set tied 20-20, Y’Tae Cobb came up with a big kill to put the Lady Pirates on top and followed with a service point to make it 22-20. A Jenna Erwin kill got GC back within a point, but a kill by Iyaria Walker and a Gulf Coast error gave Pensacola a set point.
Two points later, the Lady Pirates closed it out when an attempted spike by Shelby Freese sailed wide left. Gulf Coast took control midway through the third set with a 7-1 run, turning an 8-7 deficit into a 14-9 lead.
A kill by Taylor Lawhon made it 19-13 Lady Commodores, though Pensacola State fought back to get to within three at 23-20 following a kill by Cobb. But a serving error by Sina Faulk provided the set point for the Lady Commodores to go up 2-1.
In the fourth set, Pensacola State jumped out to the early 4-2 lead, but Gulf Coast answered by scoring seven of the next eight
points to go up 9-5 after three straight serves by Tessa Morken.
A kill by Delia Morin sparked a run of four straight Gulf Coast points featuring three more serves by Morken and a kill by Jordan Rayburn to make it 21-13. A kill by Cobb and a pair of Gulf Coast errors allowed Pensacola to cut the margin to five at 23-18.
But a serve by Faulk went wide right to give Gulf Coast match point, and two points later the Lady Commodores capitalized on a kill by Lawhon to end the match.
Erwin led the team with 11 kills and 23 digs to go with two blocks, while Rayburn had 11 kills, 13 digs, an ace, and a block. Lawhon had six kills and three blocks, with Morken tying for the team lead with 23 digs.
Morin led the way with 29 assists to go with six digs, four kills, and three blocks. Kiana Yangson had 11 digs. Gulf Coast will next play a tri-match Saturday in Ocala against Central Florida and Lake Sumter