The Gilmour Lancers volleyball team had victory in their sights.
The Lancers held a 23-22 lead against Hamilton Badin in the fourth set of the Ohio High School Athletic Assocation Division II state semifinals last Friday, just two points away from their third consecutive trip to the state championship game.
But the Rams were not finished just yet and went on a 3-0 run to win the fourth set 25-23 and tie the score at two sets apiece.
“It was a combination of them playing really well,” said Coach Danny Coughlin. “We had a couple of unforced errors at the end and once you tie the game up late like they did, it gave them the momentum swing with only a few points to go.”
The Lancers won the fifth set and defeated Hamilton Badin 25-12, 21-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-10 at the Ervin J. Nutter Center at Wright State University in Fairborn to advance to the state final.
“We have played at this pace a lot this year so we were still pretty comfortable and confident going into that fifth set,” the eighth-year coach said. “The girls understood there were errors involved but if you noticed with Liberty-Benton and Columbus Bishop-Hartley, we did not go away. We train hard and work hard and these kids work out two or three times a week and we practice in uncomfortable situations. We had to play the game and find a way to finish it out.”
It marks the fourth time Gilmour (21-8) advanced to the state final since Coughlin was named coach in 2015.
The Lancers have been a team filled with experience in previous years but for the first time in a while, they were a young team with only three seniors on the roster.
Gilmour had several players take on new roles this year, but the new fits have been seamless, paving the way for the Lancers to once again earn a berth in the State Final Four.
“This team is special because there are a lot of new faces playing pivotal roles so it is nice just to see this group and doing what they are doing and battling the way they are battling,” Coughlin said. “They are street fighting. We are not out-muscling people. It is a street fight for us. We may not be the best skilled team in the State of Ohio but these kids are turning it into a street fight every single night and they are going out there and they are staying successful.”
Having traditionally been a slow-starting team, Gilmour was firing on all cylinders in the first set by taking a 5-1 lead and outscored the Rams 20-11 to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
According to Coughlin, Hamilton Badin took a while to get comfortable playing in their first state semifinal in program history.
While Gilmour may have been the younger team, several underclassmen received valuable playing time on the floor of the Nutter Center in the two games played last year in their march to the team’s second consecutive Division II state banner.
“For us, we have been there multiple years in a row and we know what it is like performing on the court and serving,” Coughlin said. “We were probably a little bit more experienced in that area so once Hamilton Badin got more comfortable and calmed down, then they got to play their normal volleyball.”
The Rams controlled the second set and took a 6-2 lead at the beginning and went on a 14-12 run to hold an eight-point advantage.
Despite Gilmour pulling within four points of the Rams, it was not enough and Hamilton Badin won the second set to tie the match at 1-1.
“Hamilon Badin’s middle attacks really increased and they did a fantastic job out of the middle,” Coughlin said. “They hit a little bit of different tempo ball than we are used to so it took us a little bit of time to get used to the blocking timing.”
The teams engaged in a tightly contested third set with no team holding a lead greater than three points.
Despite trailing 6-3, the Lancers staged a 9-6 comeback to tie the score at 12-12.
It continued being a back-and-forth affair with the score tied at 23-23, but sophomore setter Ella Jackson sparked the Lancers who scored the next two points to hold a 2-1 edge in the match.
“Ella is a fantastic setter and everybody believes in what she does and they trust in how she sets the game and nobody questions Ella’s decisions,” Coughlin said. “We’re very fortunate to have a player like Ella, who even if we do not pass a perfect ball, she does a fantastic job at bettering the ball and allowing our hitters to take a swing and score a point.”
Badin had an early lead in the fourth set but Gilmour pulled ahead 14-13, spurred by a 11-5 run and continued leading until the Rams went on a 3-0 run to go ahead 22-20.
Gilmour responded with three unanswered points but the Rams rallied to win the set to force a decisive fifth set.
The Rams took a 4-2 lead but Gilmour mounted another comeback, led by sophomore middle blocker Kayla Channell, who recorded seven kills in the final set to send the Lancers back to the state final by outscoring Hamilton Badin 13-6 and winning the set 15-10.
“Kayla did not have her typical offensive output in sets one through four,” Coughlin said. “Normally she is pretty clean and crisp and scores some big balls but offensively we struggled a little bit at finding good rhythms but she got hot at the right time and in the right moment.”
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