Sheffield drops 5-set thriller to St. Marys

Sheffield’s Lynzie Grubbs (12) watches as her attack goes past a St. Marys defender’s attempted block during the third set of their match at Sheffield High School, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. Grubbs had eight kills and four blocks for the Wolverines, but it was the Lady Dutch who grabbed the five set win.

One of the hardest things for young teams to learn is how to close out a victory in a close game against a tough opponent.

The Sheffield volleyball team very nearly learned that lesson against St. Marys Thursday at the Ralph J. Santo gymnasium. The Wolverines pushed the Lady Dutch to the limit, but came up two points shy of a major upset in a five set (25-16, 16-25, 25-14, 23-25 and 15-13) thriller.

“We went to 15-13 with a 3A school, that means something,” Sheffield coach Melissa Lemay said. “I’m very pleased to have gone five games against them.”

Out of the gate, it looked as though St. Marys would roll. The Lady Dutch grabbed a 2-1 lead in the first set and never trailed again. They took advantage of 17 Wolverines errors in the set to come away with the 25-16 win.

The teams traded points to start the second, but this time it was Sheffield that grabbed a lead, 8-7, and wouldn’t let go. A Tori Childress kill and Lexi Goldthwaite ace pushed the lead to 10-7. St. Marys closed the gap to three points several times through the remainder of the set, but Sheffield continued to hold the lead. Annabel Sheldon’s tip and Lynzie Grubbs’ block had the Wolverines in front 20-14. An error by the Lady Dutch made it 21-4 and Emily Leichtenberger served back-to-back aces to put Sheffield on the verge of winning the set. Sheldon’s push over the net gave Sheffield set point, but St. Marys put down a kill and served an ace to close the gap. Grubbs put down a kill to close out the 25-16 win.

Sheffield jumped out to a 4-1 lead to start the third, but St. Marys answered with a 5-1 run to take a 6-5 lead. The Wolverines briefly retook the lead at 8-7, but the Lady Dutch got it right back at 9-8. Leichtenberger’s tip over the net closed the gap to three at 14-11, but St. Marys then went on a 5-0 run to push the advantage to 19-11. The Lady Dutch only allowed the Wolverines three more points the rest of the way in a 25-14 win.

Megan Johnson served three straight aces to start the fourth. Leichtenberger, Sheldon and Grubbs all found the floor and Leichtenberger’s ace made it 7-1 through the early going. Marissa Grubbs served an ace to give Sheffield a 9-4 lead, and Sheldon’s ace-the sixth of the set-made it 12-7. Leading 14-9, the Wolverines got a bit of a momentum boost when Lynzie Grubbs’ block ended a long volley between the teams. Leichtenberger followed with a kill to give Sheffield a 16-9 advantage. Lynzie Grubbs’ tip made it 19-14 and Sheffield appeared well on its way to forcing a decisive fifth set.

But St. Marys answered the bell with a 5-0 run to tie the set at 19-19. The Lady Dutch took their first lead of the set at 21-20, but the Wolverines got it back at 22-21. A St. Marys ace tied it again at 23, but Sheldon’s push gave the Wolverines set point and they closed it out, 25-23, to force the fifth set.

“This team is consistently inconsistent,” Lemay said. “I have to keep reminding myself that we’ve got a freshman and three sophomores on the floor. We’re still very young.”

The fifth set was a back-and-forth battle. Goldthwaite’s ace and Sheldon’s kill had the Wolverines leading 7-4. St. Marys was able to tie it at 7-7 with a kill and an ace, but Sheffield came right back to take the lead and Childress’ kill pushed the advantage to 10-7. The Lady Dutch again had an answer and knotted the set at 10-10. An ace gave St. Marys a 12-11 lead. Sheffield tied it at 12, but St. Marys put down a kill to regain the lead. The Wolverines again tied it at 13, but a service error and an ace closed out the set, 15-13, and gave the Lady Dutch a hard-fought, 3-2 win.

“This program just doesn’t know how to expect more of themselves and have the confidence to finish,” Lemay said. “We’re young, but I want success early for them. I want them to learn how to win.”

Sheldon led the Wolverines attack with 17 kills. Lynzie Grubbs had eight kills and four blocks, while Johnson had 30 assists and 15 digs and Marissa Grubbs added 16 digs.

St. Marys won the junior varsity match, 25-13, 18-25 and 15-5.

Sheffield hosts Forest Monday for Senior Night.