Down to its final point, team rallies to win 3 straight

Trailing 2-0, the New Canaan High School's girls volleyball team probably should have seemed headed for defeat in Monday's match with visiting Fairfield Warde. But, as several opponents had already found out -- and as Warde was about to learn -- you just can't count out the Rams.

Not this Rams team. Not in 2010.

New Canaan battled back from a 2-0 deficit for a wild 3-2 win to improve to 10-3 overall. New Canaan prevailed 19-25, 24-26, 25-22, 25-14, 15-12, dropping the shocked Mustangs to 6-8 overall.

This sort of nail-biting, winning scenario is nothing new for the New Canaan spikers, who seem to thrive on pressure. Coach Katie Campbell noted that this marked the third or fourth time the team has fought back from 2-0 down to win this fall. The Rams have won five of six matches that have ended in five games this season, a nice turnaround from a year ago when the team won just one of four five-game battles.

"Last year we were the five-game losers. This year we are the five-game winners," Campbell said.

Down to their final point, trailing 24-23 in the second game, New Canaan evened things up on an errant Warde serve, but the visitors pulled out the match to make it 2-0. That's when the Rams got down to business. Well, soon thereafter, the Rams got going. New Canaan actually fell behind 5-0 in the third game before seizing control.

"We just like going to five games," Andrea Mullaney said light-heartedly. "It was just amazing. It was so exciting."

The team had production from all over the floor. Melissa Tweed had 11 service points, 11 digs and eight kills. Ellen Trinklein had 12 digs. Setter Kellen Tensen compiled 23 assists, 16 digs and 17 service points, including five aces. Emma Strake had 15 service points, eight kills and five digs. Andrea Mullaney had 17 service points, including six aces, and added 21 digs and eight kills. Annie Conover had 10 digs and seven kills.

Even when the Mustangs were winning points, the Rams made them work extra hard for everything they got. Conover had two digs, including one on a diving effort to keep a rally alive. The teams traded the lead several times in the third game, during which Mullaney also made a nice diving play to keep the ball alive. New Canaan led just 21-20 in the win or lose the match third game, but the Rams pulled away late and clinched the game 25-22 when Mullaney hit the ball, with her back to the net, across to the other side and the Mustangs' return attempt hit the net.

"Once things started going well, everything kept going up, and up and up," Rebecca Eversen said of New Canaan's play. "It feels really good because we lost to them when we scrimmaged them. We don't give up really easily. We always know how to push it through."

Game four remained close only for a short time. Warde hung close, down 8-6, 10-7 and 11-8 before New Canaan went on a tear to outscore their foes 14-6 to win the game by 11 points. Tweed caught plenty of air as she dove to keep a ball alive; and Tensen had a key block/kill and later added a service ace and made a diving play of her own to save a point.

"Once we got on a roll, it's much more fun," Kellen Tensen added. "I found myself smiling before I served because I was having fun. Once we started actually hitting and attacking I felt we got a lot more points off that."

In the fifth game, Warde built a 3-0 lead before the Rams reeled off eight straight points for an 8-3 lead, only to see the Mustangs battle back and eventually tie the score at 12 apiece. An errant Warde serve made it 13-12 Rams. Eversen's bump went high in the air and landed between a trio of Warde players who watched the ball drop for a 14-12 Ram lead.

Conover ended things with her final kill on a spike at the net.

"They're fighters. That's just it. They love a challenge," Campbell said. "It takes that to wake them up." The coach added that the pressure that comes with falling behind seems to heighten her players' games. "If anything, it just makes them come alive. It's a testament to their fire," she said.

In all seriousness, the team would rather spare themselves the suspense now and then, though.

"This has become a pattern and it's one we want to break. We want to win in three games," Tensen said.

The key to the turnaround against Warde was, in part, a little bit of stern talking to from the coach, Campbell said. She added that the players needed to be reminded to stay focused and become more aggressive. She credited everyone on the floor for bringing up their level of play in the third, fourth and fifth games.

"I think they were getting a little bit complacent about what they were doing," Campbell said."They're fighters. They may not be technically sound but when they're put in a fight they're going to fight. They scrape something together and make it work."