MARBLEHEAD — Falling way behind to start the pivotal third game in a hostile gym meant the Peabody High volleyball team had to dig deep. Both figuratively and literally.
The Tanners used their defensive acumen to dig out so many hard-hit balls from host Marblehead Tuesday, storming back to take three straight games and down the Magicians, 3-1, in a well-played match that seemed destined to go the distance.
“You look at the height and see that we tower over them, but they just dig us over and over again,” Marblehead head coach Killeen Miller said of the Tanners’ defense. “They play that short game so well.”
The Magicians (3-5) seemed to be seizing control when they jumped ahead by five to start the third game of a 1-1 match. Led by superb freshman Abby Bettencourt and libero Maggie Bena, the Tanners (5-3) rattled eight of the next 10 points, went on to win the game by a razor-thin 25-23 margin and took the match 21-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-16.
“I was really impressed with the way my girls adjusted in real time,” said Tanner head coach Lisa Keene. “Our positioning was off by just a little bit. It took a little prodding but they figured it out, and the intelligence of fixing it in real time was great to see.”
Bettencourt had 13 assists, 12 service points and five aces and also made her presence felt at the net with three blocks. Her older sister, Isabel, teamed with Sarah Broughton for 15 kills to provide the majority of the finishing touch for Peabody.
“This gym is always a little intimidating for us, so getting a win here always feels good,” Keene said. “Marblehead’s a great team that hits so hard and is very hard to defend. We’ve spent a lot of time working on our defense, and it’s great to see that pay off.”
Marblehead got some strong defense of its own from senior libero Abby Schwartz, who had 26 digs. One of four seniors (all captains) for the Magicians, she and captain Samantha Oberlander (33 assists) helped set the tone for the ever improving younger players.
“Sometimes I wonder what’s going on and then realize they’re sophomores that haven’t had that much experience in the high pressure situations,” Miller noted. “I don’t think our record reflects how strong a team we have to how much we’ve improved; Abby was all over the place and did a great job reading the hits and getting those digs.”
Oberlander had a couple of aces, a block and a handful of service points while doing a tremendous job running the Magician offense. She set up Lilah Thompson an incredible 29 times to produce 14 kills and also set up eight finishers from Keira Sweetnam and six from Isabel Wabno.
A few times, ferocious Magicains kills fell barely out of bounds for Tanner points. The results derailed momentum a bit but Miller made sure her team knew she was pleased with the process.
“Mechanically, everything is right. You just have to go back and win that next time,” she explained. “When you’re reading and playing well, you’re going to hit errors. That’s OK. You have to learn that confidence of knowing, “That was a really great error and the next one’s going to fall in.’”
Krissy Cardello did a great job serving for Peabody with six aces among her 16 points while serving long Tanner runs that led to victories in the second and third games.
Sophia Hollingshed served for 11 points and collected three blocks at the net for Peabody, which will host its Senior Night on Thursday against Winthrop.