LITTLE FALLS -- The No. 1 seed Pine River-Backus Tigers could not overcome their slow start and lost to the No. 2 seed Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Wolves 3-1 Thursday, Oct. 31, in the North Subsection 5-1A Finals.
“Our passing was not great,” Tigers head coach Josh Hirschey said. “They had a plan to try and make us pass deep, get us going backwards. We practice it a lot, but it just did not show up tonight and I thought that was a big part of it.”
This game was a rematch from Oct. 15, when PR-B defeated WHA 3-2 in Walker.
Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 3, Pine River-Backus 1
Key: WHA big hitters up front led the charge as PR-B played on their heels the whole match.
Overall: PRB 28-4, WHA 24-6.
The Wolves scored the first eight points of the first set and cruised to a 25-11 lead. WHA led at one point 16-3 and dominated the Tigers in every aspect.
“We just tried to battle and get back to the fundamentals,” Hirschey said of his team’s slow start. “We just did the best we could to see if we could get things turned around.”
In the second set, the Tigers bounced back to take an early 8-5 lead. With Kali Oelschlager serving for WHA, the Wolves went on a 6-0 run to take the lead, followed by another 5-1 run to push their lead even further in the second set.
PR-B clawed back and tied the second set 20-20, but WHA responded with a 5-0 run to close the Tigers out and take a 2-0 set lead.
Rylie Hirschey served an ace as to cap off a 4-0 PR-B run to take a 13-9 lead in the third set. The Tigers found themselves up 20-13 when a WHA run made it 20-17. Olivia Adkins closed the door on a comeback with the finishing kills and the Tigers won the third set 25-18 and looked to have a little bit of a spark after a slow start.
In the fourth set, PR-B held a slim 6-5 lead until Megan Benjamin, serving for the Wolves, went on a 6-0 run to take back the lead 11-6.
Another Wolves run and the score was 22-12 WHA with little hope of the Tigers coming back. A serve that went long and out for PR-B was the winning point for the WHA Wolves, who move on to the Section 5-1A Finals and avenge their loss just 16 days prior.
“We knew when we lost on our home court that we made some adjustments and we came out tonight and played Pine River exactly the way we needed to to win,” WHA head coach Bonnie Sea said.
For WHA, Benjamin was their main hitter with 19 kills, but Katie Sagen backed her up with 14 kills. Those two made for a tough combination the Tigers could not counter.
“Megan is our top hitter, but it was nice that Katie Sagen came alive and provided us with 14 kills, too,” Sea said. “Everyone came to play, which was beautiful to watch. The girls are excited to be here. They are enjoying the moment.”
Adkins led the Tigers with 10 kills and nine digs and Rylie Hirschey finished with 29 set assists. Jaime Johnson finished with 11 digs and nine kills while senior Emma Barchus ended with nine digs and 10 kills.
The Tigers graduate two seniors from their 2019 team -- outside hitter Emma Barchus and right side hitter Anna Felthous. PR-B still finished the season with 28 wins and were good enough to claim the No. 1 seed in Section 5-1A, so there are a lot of positives for Hirschey and his team to reflect on.
“We know those couple of seniors are going to be very successful,” Hirschey said. “I got a bunch of outstanding kids and it stinks when you put a lot into it and come up short, but that’s part of life.
“I’ll remember them for their work ethic. For most of these kids I feel like their uncle, they are at my house all the time, it’s tough, but I’m not saying goodbye to them any time soon.”
For more photos, go to https://bit.ly/2qV6o2C.