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Karns City Regroups After Redbank Valley Rallies From 2-0 Down to Win Epic Five-Set Match

KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Ashley Fox pointed to one factor that helped the Karns City volleyball team regroup after watching a 2-0 lead evaporate at home on Senior Night against Redbank Valley.

“I think a lot of us got really angry,” said Fox, a senior, smiling.

(Karns City senior Ashley Fox was named the Hager Paving Incorporated Player of the Game)

An angry Gremlin is a dangerous Gremlin.

Karns City regrouped in the fifth set after losing the third and fourth, jumped out to a 7-1 lead and held off a late charge by Redbank in that all-or-nothing fifth game to outlast the Bulldogs in a marathon 25-18, 25-20, 19-25, 11-25, 15-12 victory on Tuesday night.

“We really wanted to win this game,” Fox said. “This is our last home game of the year, and the last forever for the three seniors who play the whole way around. We just really wanted it because this is our last time playing here.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

Fox was masterful all night in the back row, at the net and while serving. She had six points and four aces at the beginning of the fifth set as Karns City built a six-point lead.

But Redbank Valley roared back, eventually drawing even at 8-8.

The teams were again tied at 12-12 in the decisive set before Karns City scored the next three points on a hitting error by the Bulldogs, a block and the match-winner on a kill by Natalie Hess that arced over every Redbank player’s head and landed just in front of the back line, sending the Gremlins into a boisterous celebration.

In the match — and in the fifth set in particular, the Gremlins drew on their ability to conquer adversity.

Unfortunately they’ve had a lot of practice with that this season.

COVID-19 sent several key players into quarantine for some key matches. Injuries also slowed Fox throughout the early part of the season and even their coach, Sharon Schmoll, was sidelined for two weeks because of protocols.

“I’m so proud of them,” Schmoll said. “They play with heart. They’re all good players and they are really starting to gel. I think that if our team hadn’t had so many problems with the sickness and stuff, we would have been gelling probably two weeks ago.”

But the Gremlins are peaking now. They hope it’s enough.

The school has a .500 rule when it comes to entering the playoffs. With only one match left against Slippery Rock on Thursday, Karns City (6-10) can’t reach that plateau. Schmoll and her team are hoping extenuating circumstances apply.

“I really don’t know at this point,” Schmoll said. “It would be nice (to keep playing), but I respect the school’s decision. We’ll get it figured out.”

Redbank Valley eventually figured out Karns City.

The Bulldogs struggled at times in falling behind 2-0, but found a groove — especially in the fourth set — and had all the momentum heading into the fifth.

Alivia Huffman had a huge night for Redbank Valley with 22 kills, 13 digs and six aces.

Libero Caylen Rearick had 45 digs and senior setter Lilly Shaffer had 33 assists.

They weren’t enough in the end, though, for Redbank Valley (9-5) in a match that featured few errors and a lot of long rallies.

“I told the girls in the locker room that they have nothing to be ashamed of,” said Redbank Valley coach Ashley Anderson. “We did start off slow, but they picked it up. I told them I was proud of them. We’re coming to the end of our regular season and, honestly, I couldn’t ask for them to be playing any better than they are right now.”

In fact, Anderson said a match like this — even in a loss — will help her team in the long run.

“I told them, ‘It’s playoff time,’” Anderson said. “Tonight against Karns City was a big game to get us moving and working and tomorrow night against Clarion is a big game to get us moving and working. These are definitely good finishing games for us.”

Hess led the Gremlins with eight kills; Fox had five kills, five aces and 27 digs; Emma Johns had seven kills and also had 13 assists; Rosie Carden had seven kills and a team-leading 18 assists; Ava Fox also had seven kills and 26 digs; and senior Amber Mauer had five kills, three aces and nine digs.

That’s been Karns City’s approach all season — lots of players contributing in lots of ways.

“These girls don’t quit,” Schmoll said. “They have a lot of hustle and they just keep going and going. It’s really great to watch them. What I appreciate the most and value in a team is having everyone playing and contributing. I think that makes a better team when the other team doesn’t know who to expect it from.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

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