By Jon Fleck
For the Mirror
Trailing West Branch, 2-1, in the best-of-five District 6 Class A girls volleyball finals, Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic was a team in turmoil.
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Bishop Guilfoyle’s Annie Dombrowski celebrates a point with Jess Welteroth.
The Lady Marauders had just gotten hammered in the third set and in the process lost senior setter Alyssa Luther, who bloodied her nose diving for a dig.
During the 3-minute break between sets, the trainer rushed to get the bloody nose stopped, and the coaching staff scrambled to get a new lineup in place in case Luther couldn't return.
Luther did return for the start of the fourth set, however, and BG rallied to beat previously undefeated West Branch in five sets, 26-24, 20-25, 10-25, 25-21, 15-3, Saturday at the AAHS Fieldhouse.
"After that third game, I started thinking I don't know if we can do this,'" senior middle hitter Jess Welteroth said. "The fourth game we turned it around and just poured out every bit of energy we had left."
BG jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth set and held on for a 25-21 win. Welteroth started the set with a block followed by a kill. Allison Bearer and Annie Dombrowski closed it out with late kills.
The Lady Marauders then raced out to a big lead in the fifth set to win going away, 15-3.
After back-to-back kills by Welteroth and Luther and a Dombrowski ace, West Branch made three consecutive hitting errors, putting BG up 6-0.
"The fifth game is more of a sprint. The goal in game five is to beat 'em to five, beat 'em to 10 and then beat 'em to 15," Bishop Guilfoyle coach Bob Kasun said. "Annie's serving got us off to a good start, and we built momentum from there."
Welteroth finished the match with an ace to give BG its district championship since 2000.
"This group of girls worked so hard from the first day of practice through the end of year. They were on a mission to win a district championship," Kasun said.
The match had huge momentum swings starting in the first set when West Branch held a 24-20 lead only to drop the set 26-24.
Luther delivered five straight service points, including two aces, and Welteroth notched back-to-back kills to close out the win.
"There were a series of momentum swings," West Branch coach Terry Trude said. "If we could have finished out that first game, there may have been a different outcome."
The first set loss didn't phase the top-seeded Lady Warriors, though. West Branch held off another late Guilfoyle rally for a 25-20 win in set two and easily handled the Lady Marauders in set three, 25-10.
In between sets three and four, the BG coaching staff may have been unsure about Luther's return, but the senior setter never wavered.
"I kept saying 'I'm going back in. I'm going back in.' There was no doubt I was getting back on that court," Luther said. "We all put in a huge effort. Every single person contributed. This win has been a goal of ours since grade school."
Kasun called Luther's injury the turning point in the match.
"That seemed to really wake us up. It was like they were coming to the defense of one of their teammates," he said. "Before that it seemed like we were playing in slow motion. We were playing soft, not playing with that championship drive we talk about."
Luther finished the match with 37 assists. Welteroth led the team with 19 kills followed by Dombrowski with 15.
Logan McIntosh notched a team-high 25 digs and Rachel Potopa added 18.
Both teams advance to the first round of the PIAA championships Tuesday.
BG plays Bentworth, the third place team out of District 7, 6 p.m. at Richland High School. West Branch takes on the District 9 champ at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined.