Circle Lady Thunderbirds volleyball moves one step closer to a league title

Lionel Tipton
special to BCTG
Circle Augusta vb score

TOWANDA – Playing the final match of Tuesday night’s triangular, Augusta was determined to be as rude of a guest as it could be for Circle volleyball’s Senior Night.

The Orioles took early leads in the first set and were up by as much as 9-4 before Circle battled back, tying the score at 12-12. The Orioles then bolted to a 20-15 lead and had a match point at 24-20, only to see the Thunderbirds rattle off the next six points and take the set, 26-24.

Losing that opening set seemed to affect Augusta, which could only watch as Circle jumped to an 11-4 lead in the second set that got as large as 19-10, and the T-Birds (18-5 overall, 8-1 AVCTL Division III) were never headed in a 25-16 victory and a sweep of the Orioles in front of an audience that included a number of Circle football players. Collegiate was the third team participating but left without a victory.

After the nervous moments of the first set, Thunderbirds coach Shelly Nibarger said unforced errors helped Augusta threaten in the first set.

“We had way too many to win a set against a good team like that,” she said. “The fact that we came back after handing them so many points was a tribute to our refusal to lose.

“Things didn’t quite go too well for (Augusta) in the second set, but (Augusta coach Kynnedi Myers) has a nice team that plays with passion and a lot of energy.”

Myers said that she anticipated her team could bounce back.

“We kind of got stuck in that last rotation,” Myers said. “It was one of our weaker rotations, and we got stuck in it; they got kind of in our heads a little bit, and we weren’t able to get out of it.

“I was hoping in the second set that we would be able to bounce back, but I feel like our team just broke down after they got that long run on us.

“We had played so well up to that very last part of the (first set). We were hoping that we would bounce back in the second set, but it just didn’t happen for us.”

Holt and Maholland had key points on spikes, and Bruendl and Mullins served a number of successful points.

“I couldn’t ask for four better leaders on this team,” Nibarger said. “They demonstrate how they care for each other. I’m going to miss them a lot.”

Each had a hand in the victory, but this was the epitome of a team triumph, as each of Nibarger’s cogs kept the machine running smoothly. Not to be overlooked were contributions from juniors Lyric Edgerle (5-foot-9) and sophomores Mia Fox (6-0) and Jacqueline Corcoran (5-9) with Maholland and Holt on the front line. Plus, juniors Addison Haskins and Hailee Schropp and sophomore Reagan Smith contributed timely digs and key serves.

“When we have all our hitters clicking, then I think we are hard to defend,” Nibarger said. “Because we have strong hitters on both ends, left and right, with Jacqueline and Marissa; and Lyric, Ella and Mia in the middle makes the kills when we need them.

“I can’t say enough about our setter, Reagan (Smith), because I think she kind of goes kind of unnoticed. She runs the show extremely well, and makes really good decisions out there as a sophomore setter.”

Nibarger also credited the play of Haskins, Mullins and Schropp and Bruendl's key serves.

Augusta (17-4, 5-3), which brought a 10-game winning streak into the matches, seemed to be deflated after dropping the first set. 

The spark that had helped the Orioles take leads against Circle appeared extinguished in the second set. In the second and deciding set, the T-Birds used a 5-0 run to get to 8-3. Circle was clinging to a 12-8 lead when the T-Birds went on a 7-2 run. It was pretty much cruise control for Circle after that, closing out the match on a 5-1 run. 

The seniors will actually have one more home appearance, in a tournament Saturday against a field that includes undefeated Eureka, 

“I think in the first set, we weren’t quite in our groove,” said Maholland, who was crowned homecoming queen last Friday. “But once we got in the groove, it was super-fun, and we started to work together and being really fluid.”

Holt said she will carry many great memories from this season.

“This is one of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of,” she said. “We play so well together, and we’re connected in different ways that I’ve never been connected with other girls I’ve played for. We all get along so well, and it truly is like family out there. We really play united. It doesn’t matter if they’re better or worse than you; when you play together, that’s when you can beat the teams – and that’s how we beat Augusta.”

Mullins said a positive focus can be uplifting when the team needs a boost.

“It felt good (in the second set) to overcome being down by a couple points,” she said. “We struggled with that early in the season, and we finally overcame that.”

 Bruendl cited the camaraderie of the team.

“It just feels like family here, like a second home,” she said. “It feels good to come back and win, especially because we have that possibility of (being a) league champion. I think that’s really important to all of us, and we’ve just really been all connected.”

And don’t discount the support from the football players.

“That really helped the energy for sure,” Bruendl said with a laugh.