GOTHENBURG — From being up two sets to playing the comeback kids in the final set, the St. Pat’s Lady Irish weathered all the tight turns and steep slopes of a roller coaster ride on Tuesday.
In the end, St. Pat’s managed to outlast the scrappy Gothenburg Swedes in five sets, finding their footing despite trailing by as many as four in the final set to claim the road win.
"A game like this one really shows you how much heart these girls have," St. Pat’s head coach Janet Victory said. "It’s mentally tough to get back up after losing two sets in a row, but these girls just don’t like to lose and it showed today."
Led by Jayla Fleck’s 52 assists and Brooke McClellen’s 52 digs, the Lady Irish quickly established their offense and defense against Gothenburg, fighting back after trailing by as many as 10 to win the opening set — a theme that continued throughout the game.
The roller coaster ride began with the Swedes (3-5) taking a 15-5 lead that stemmed from five consecutive St. Pat’s (8-4) miscues in the opening set. But the Lady Irish responded with an 8-0 rally that trimmed Gothenburg’s lead to 15-13.
And the Lady Irish didn’t stop there.
St. Pat’s managed to tie the game at 19 apiece before taking their first lead of the set at 21-20.
Unable to find footing after losing a 10-point lead, the Swedes dropped the first set, 26-24.
With the Swedes yielding the momentum over to St. Pat’s, the second set proved a medley riddled with four lead changes and 18 ties.
St. Pat’s, however, maintained the slight edge for most of the set, coming away with a 25-23 win to claim a 2-0 lead in the game.
"I thought at that point that we could have put them away in three," Victory said. "But Gothenburg did a good job in coming back and winning the next two."
With a two-set lead and looking for the sweep, the Lady Irish quickly took a 7-3 lead. But Gothenburg stormed back with an 11-1 rally to take their first lead and more. The Swedes opened a 14-8 cushion on St. Pat’s with the run and didn’t look back, leading by as many as 13 en route to a 25-17 win.
Gothenburg then forced their way back again in the fourth set, outscoring St. Pat’s 7-2 to claim a 14-9 lead. The Swedes opened the gap to 21-12, and coasted to a 25-14 win that forced a fifth and deciding set.
But with the match hinging on a final set, the tables turned late for the Swedes.
"Gothenburg started making some mistakes of late on the outside, and we got our blockers back up on them," Victory said. "And then (Gothenburg) just started tipping. I don’t think a tip-game could ever win a game, so I kept telling my hitters to hit as hard as they could and not fall into the same routine."
Led by Rachel Heiss’ six kills in the set, the Lady Irish’s aggressiveness paid dividends in coming from a four-point deficit to regain the lead and win, 16-14, in the end.
The win starts the Lady Irish on a two-game winning streak, while the Gothenburg Swedes drop their third consecutive game.
The Swedes return to action on Friday, hosting Chadron, Minden and Class C1 No. 3 St. Paul in the Gothenburg Invite. The Lady Irish will play in the Mid-Plains Tournament on Saturday against Hi-Line and Paxton.