An enthusiastic band and student section propelled the Omaha Gross volleyball team to a Senior Night upset of Blair on Thursday night.
The 2-17 Cougars won a five-set thriller at home, 25-22, 23-25, 25-22, 23-25 and 15-13. The loss dropped the Bears to 7-12 before an 0-3 Saturday showing at the Eastern Midlands Conference (EMC) Tournament. The Gross loss, however, was their first of the season to a team with less than nine wins through Thursday.
Still, BHS battled back time-and-time again after it fell behind and the crowd against them grew louder.
“They stayed out of their heads, a lot,” Bears coach Becca Mellema said. “In the past, we have gotten in our heads and we've allowed momentum to determine the game. But I feel like, this time, they played a lot more level-headed and they were able to block out the energy of the other team.”
For example, Blair lost the first set 25-22 before coming back and winning the second. An Olivia Fitchhorn and Schuyler Roewert block broke a 21-all tie before a Peyton Ogle block did the same at 23-23. Gross hit the ball into the net to end it, though, allowing the Bears back into the match, 1-1.
The Cougars went ahead by a set in the best-of-five match for a second time with their third before BHS responded again with a set victory during the fourth. The Bears' Claire Gochanour was dominant down the stretch, tapping the ball through a block for 21-all before slamming a spike off of Gross block and out of bounds for a 22-21 advantage.
Another light tap from the senior standout dropped to the floor like a lead balloon to push the Bears ahead in the fourth set, 23-22. An unforced Gross miscue, ultimately, led to the game-deciding fifth, though.
BHS' Reece Ewoldt started the final set with an ace, but her team fell behind 6-1 early. Kills by Megan McKeon — who Mellema spotlighted as a standout from Thursday's match — Roewert, Taylor Mostek and Gochanour got the Bears back into it, but it was wasn't enough. The Cougars clinched just their second win of the season when a Blair serve ended up short into the net.
BHS finishes 6th at Norris
Blair finished sixth at the competitive EMC tournament Saturday, dropping three matches to top-10 teams at Norris High School.
The No. 1 Titans, No. 3 Waverly Vikings and No. 7 Bennington Badgers all beat the Bears 2-0. Coach Bellema's squad is 0-8 against conference competition this fall.
BHS next plays 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Omaha Benson.