PLYMOUTH — Abbey Zaykoski did whatever her team needed.
The Nanticoke senior picked her spots on the court and took shots. Some were cross-court strikes. Others were floaters that just cleared the wingspan of Wyoming Valley West’s 6-foot middle Gracie Giza.
But when the young Trojans needed that senior leadership and boost of confidence, Zaykoski never skipped a beat.
She recorded 12 of her team-high 13 kills in the final three sets as Nanticoke rallied from a two-game deficit to earn a 3-2 victory over Valley West in a battle of undefeated conference foes Wednesday night.
Set scores were 18-25, 18-25, 25-22, 25-22 and 15-9.
“We just didn’t play like ourselves in those first two sets,” Zaykoski said. “We knew that we could do this. We were more comfortable in the final three sets. My team just did a fantastic job passing today, and I wanted to keep them going. Sometimes, we tend to get down, but we have to keep that confidence.”
Maybe it was the pep talk that coach Debbie Gavin gave after that second set.
Maybe it was just sheer will of not going home with a loss. Whatever it was, Zaykoski answered with all her heart.
Her late kill in the third set broke a 21-21 tie as Nanticoke closed on a 4-1 run to trim the deficit.
Combine her four fourth-set kills with a long, 8-0 run on Shyla Seesoltz’s serve, and the Trojans were off to a 14-6 edge in the stanza. It didn’t come easy, though, as the Spartans scored four straight points on Giza’s serve late before two straight Valley West attack errors ended the set.
“We are a young team, but they are just so determined,” Gavin said. “We had one of our starters out sick and we had to make some adjustments. Once we got that third game, I just think our girls didn’t want to let it go. They knew that they could do it after they won that third one.
“We are one of those teams that will never give up, will never quit and won’t give in. We are going to fight until the last point.”
Seesoltz was the star of the final set.
Yes, Zaykoski recorded five kills in the race to 15. And sophomore Kasey Radginski clinched the victory with a spike to the middle of the court between two Spartans.
But it was Seesoltz that kept dropping darts to the back-right corner of the court. Nanticoke strung together a 6-0 run with the junior behind the service line to build a 13-8 lead in the fifth.
“I think our passing was just better in the final three games,” Seesoltz said. “Those two runs on my serve, that was amazing. To hear my teammates cheering me on, that just pumped me up. I just felt so comfortable back there.”
For Valley West, it really was a story of two teams.
When Giza was in the front row, the Spartans were unstoppable. The sophomore, who touches the top of the net just standing still, hammered the ball to the court. And that’s not counting her six blocks.
But when she went to the back row, and was substituted by libero Jimena Calvo Saenz, it was evident the Spartans missed Giza’s leadership.
The communication seemed to drop off, and when Nanticoke went on its run, that calming aura she provides just wasn’t there.
The perfect example was the fifth set.
Valley West held a 7-5 lead when Giza was in the game. When the rotation shifted the sophomore to the back row, Nanticoke went on a 10-2 run.
The Spartans hurt themselves with miscues, racking up 17 service errors and more than 30 attack errors.
“That’s something that I’ve been telling the other girls. When Gracie isn’t on the court, we need people to step up,” Valley West coach R.J. Tomascik said. “It just came down to too many errors. You can’t give so many points away and expect to beat a good team.
“I told the girls that once we stopped swinging, they were going to beat you because that’s Nanticoke. They are a scrappy team that never quits. We started to push the ball around and they capitalized on it.”
Giza finished with a match-high 19 kills and six blocks, while teammate Kiersten Weidwald added 25 assists.
Zaykoski, Jenna Lipowski and Radginski combined for 29 of Nanticoke’s 34 kills.
Tunkhannock 3, GAR 1
The host Tigers shook off an opening-game loss to down the Grenadiers 20-25, 25-15, 25-18, 25-9. Megan Hartshaw and Rachel Fernandez each had 16 service points and five aces while Amanda Hardy had a match-high 21 kills.
GAR was led by Erin Scafella (six digs, two aces, 10 service points) and Banessa Flores (13 service points, 18 assists).
Coughlin 3, MMI Prep 1
The Crusaders earned a 25-13, 19-25, 25-22, 25-16 victory. Aubrey Wynn had nine kills, seven digs, two aces, two service points and a single assist while Walkiria Perez added seven assists, four aces, four service points, three digs and two blocks to help Coughlin get the win over MMI Prep. Tamar Bourdeau also contributed 11 service points, seven digs and an ace for the Crusaders.
The Preppers got seven service points, six digs, four kills and two aces from Madison Perchak while Desiree Dinko finished with nine service points, four digs, three aces and three kills.
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