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Richmond rallies to first league win over Yale

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

What was meant to be another home BWAC match for the Richmond volleyball team became an on-the-road story of redemption.

The Blue Devils started off their season 0-3 in conference play after falling to three league rivals in their first quad. On Tuesday night, they were supposed to host Yale for their first dual, but after Monday’s storms left many homes and schools in the area without power, they hit the road to play on the Bulldogs’ court.

Yale came out strong with an 8-0 run in the first set to eventually win 25-11, but Richmond rallied in the second to even the score with a 25-17 victory. In the third set, Yale took back control with a 7-2 run, but the Blue Devils managed to narrow the deficit to 25-18. They hadn’t given up just yet.

That’s when head coach Charlene West made an adjustment.

Richmond celebrates after winning a point.

“After watching [sophomore Alayana Esselink] for the first two sets, I was like, “OK, I need to make a change,” West said. “I thought she’d be a better match with [Yale’s] middle and I also thought I need to get her away from [senior Piper Clark] becuase they’re both my stronger hitters.

“It seemed to work a little better for us,” West added.

She was right. The adjustment led to a 25-7 victory in the fourth set, forcing the match to five, which was when Clark said she knew her team had control.

“[Our coach said] to play for each other and not for yourself. You’ve got to trust your teammates and we knew we had it,” Clark said. “We were just pushing along and finally got good passes, we were working together as a team, and pulled it off in the end. When we were all just up, the bench was loud, and everyone was loud on the court. We all just knew.”

The Blue Devils were especially loud after Clark made the final play – an emphatic kill that secured a 15-8 victory in the last set.

Senior Piper Clark with the match-winning kill.

“I was like, ‘Oh please go, please go,’” Clark said. “I was definitely excited when it hit the ground and all my teammates were cheering me on and screaming at me.”

Clark finished the night with a game-leading 18 kills while also adding 13 digs.

“[Piper brings] high energy, 110% for every ball. She never gives up and she’s not afraid to swing away. She’s a good pressure player,” West said. “They might’ve blocked her a few times, but she’s going to win eventually.”

Esselink, who was playing in her first match since suffering an ankle injury in the season’s first scrimmage, totalled 10 kills and five digs. Sophomore setter Emmi Hildreth had 36 assists in the win and sophomore defensive specialist Brooklyn Jones led with 16 digs.

For the Bulldogs, head coach Kerry Dykstra said she saw a lot of potential and positives to take away from the loss.

“We’re working on consistency right now. We have a very young, new group of girls, so every day we’re learning,” she said. “Even though this didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, we have a lot of positives to look forward to.”

Senior Abbi Dykstra sets the ball.

She noted her team’s serving, defense, and wide selection of hitters such as senior Rylie Ferguson, sophomore Alyssa Barr, and senior Ava Schatzberg who totaled nine, six, and five kills on the night, respectively. Senior setter Abbi Dykstra led with 21 assists.

Defensivley, three different Bulldogs recorded four blocks as well: Ferguson, Barr, and junior Ava Richards. And junior Shauna Dannhausen had 24 digs.

The two teams each stand 1-3 in conference play now and will likely see each other again this evening as they join St. Clair at Port Huron High for a non-conference quad match. Richmond will return to league play on Sept. 8 at Almont (2-2), and Yale host Cros-Lex (2-1).

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