COVINGTON — The volleyball matchup between TRC unbeatens Miami East and Covington more than lived up to the hype Tuesday.
In a match where the play was at a district or regional level all night, the Vikings (9-2, 7-0) outlasted the Buccs (8-2, 6-1) 28-26, 26-28, 25, 25-17, 22-25, 15-9.
And when it mattered most, Miami East senior outside hitter Meg Gilliland showed why she is “That Girl”.
Earlier this season in a match with Troy, Miami East coach Dan Peterson had told Gilliland, “You are that girl. The one everyone comes to see play.”
And with Covington leading 9-8 in the fifth set, she lived up that one more time.
She had kill for a sideout to tie it 9-9, then served six straight points to end the match.
Two of those points came on aces, three more came on Gilliland kills and Megan McDowell had a block.
In the opening set, Gilliland and Covington’s Nigella Reck showed why they are the twotwo of the best players in the conference down the stretch.
Miami East had rallied from a 22-16 deficit when Reck had kills for sideouts to give Covington leads of 23-22 and 24-23.
Khalia Lawrence followed with a kill to tie it
Gilliland would make it 25-24 with a kill and Reck tied it back up with a kill.
Gilliland would make it 26-25 with another kill, but a long serve tied it back up.
Lawrence had another kill to make it 27-26 and Gilliland had a tip to end it.
The second set was the same score, only with Covington winning.
A Gilliland kill had given East a 24-23 lead, but Carlie Besecker had a kill for Covington to tie at 24.
Reck served an ace to make it 25-24, but Gilliland had a tip to tie it.
Ava Prince had a tip on Gilliland’s serve to make it 26-25, before Besecker had another kill to tie it.
Kearsten Wiggins then served out the set for the Buccs, with a service winner and an ace to even the match.
In the third set, after Covington had an 8-5 lead — but, the aggressive serving of Gilliland and Jaycee Roeth, combined with the play of middles Lawrence and Megan McDowell swung the set the Vikings way as East took the set 25-17.
East had an early 8-4 lead in the fourth set, but Covington would rally for a 22-17 lead.
After East closed to within 22-21, Hailey Naff had a kill sideout and served an ace to make it 24-21.
At 24-22, East hit the ball into the net, forcing a fifth set.
Two aces by Prince and a kill by Gilliland had given the Vikings and early 3-0 lead.
But Covington, answered with five straight points as Reck had four kills and Taylor Kirker served an ace.
Then, East answered with three straight points as Lawrence had a kill, Gilliland had a tip and Emma Stapleton served an ace.
Covington got an ace from Reaghan Lemp and two kills by Besecker to go up 9-8, before Gilliland took over and finished the match.
For Miami East, Gilliland pounded 26 kills and had four blocks, four aces and 18 digs.
Lawrence had 11 kills and five blocks and Prince had five kills, 35 assists, three aces and 12 digs.
McDowell had six kills, four blocks and seven digs and Stapleton served three aces.
Whitni Enis had 15 digs, Maya Bowsher had 12 digs and Jaycee Roeth added eight digs.
For Covington, Reck had 21 kills, five aces and 11 digs and Kirker had 44 assists and 18 digs.
Besecker had 12 kills, five blocks and nine digs, Naff pounded nine kills and Lauren York had six digs.
Wiggins had 12 digs and Lemp added 11 digs.
You can reach Sports Editor Rob Kiser at [email protected]