McARTHUR — For the time being, Vinton County still runs the TVC, and Sydney Smith made sure of it.
The senior outside hitter finished the night with 21 kills, 15 digs and four aces as she helped lead the Vikings to a four-set knock down and drag out victory over Nelsonville-York 25-15, 25-22, 23-25 and 25-22 on Thursday.
“We didn’t have Sydney for a part of the summer, so she hadn’t played all the way around the floor in a while, but she played great,” Vinton County coach Ashley Ervin said. “You could tell she was getting a little winded, but she gutted it out and made some plays down the stretch when we made our final run.”
It can be tricky opening up conference play in the second game of the season, but the Vikings took it all in stride.
Matter of fact, it dominated the first set.
With Lacy Ward at the serving line and Smith at the net, the Vikings jumped ahead 7-1. The Buckeyes managed to trim the lead down to 8-6, but that was the closest it got.
Smith had two kills and block, then went back to the serving line and ripped an ace for a 12-7 lead. Cameron Zinn racked up three kills to push the lead to double digits before Smith added two more kill and an ace to finish off the first set.
“When we play Nelsonville, it’s always a very competitive game,” Smith said. “So we knew that we had to jump on them and be at our best.”
The Buckeyes began making some adjustments but still had a little trouble with Smith, Ward, Zinn and Zoey Kiefer at the net.
After five ties with the final one coming at 9-9, Zinn notched a kill to put the Vikings ahead. Smith powered back-to-back kills, then Lacy Ward added one before Kiefer aced the next point for a 16-13 lead.
Though the Buckeyes hung around and put the pressure on, the Vikings rose up to the challenge with two more kills from Smith, an ace from Zinn and the final kill from Ward to take the second set.
Despite being down 2-0, the Buckeyes quietly built some confidence knowing it competed and went with a different tactic in the third set.
Instead of trying to swing and power a kill through defenders, it went with a more finesse approach and began to tip at the net.
With the game tied 8-8, they went on a 7-1 run to create some distance and go up 15-9. The Vikings brought the lead down to one but couldn’t quite get over the hump.
They did manage to tie the game twice at 20-20 and 23-23 after Ward kills on both occasions, but the Buckeyes got a kill followed by a hitting error to extend the game to a fourth set.
“Honestly it was a boring kind of set, I don’t know exactly what happened to us but nothing was there,” Smith said. “We just hit a rough patch for some reason and they got us.”
While the Vikings tried to piece things back together, the Buckeyes were still flying high and bringing the fight.
They controlled the lead throughout the set, jumping ahead as much as 19-11 with everything pointing towards a fifth set.
But then the Vikings remembered who they were.
“We told ourselves that were not going to a fifth set,” Smith said. “It wasn’t happening. We knew we were the better team on the court so it was now or never at that point.”
Trailing 20-13, the Vikings strung together an 8-0 run behind a pair of kills from Smith and Ward to take their first lead at 21-20.
Tied at 21, Zinn came through with a kill then it was Ward’s turn to put the hammer down as she delivered kills for points 23, 24 and the final one to ice the game for the Vikings.
“Lacy came through really big for us down the stretch and hitting shots down the line,” Ervin said. “She’s always been capable of putting the ball down. We have to have someone who can pick things up when everyone is struggling, and she did that.”
Following Smith’s numbers, Zinn had 34 assists, 20 digs, 12 kills and three aces.
Lacy Ward added 13 kills, five digs and four aces, while Kerrigan Ward had 26 digs and five assists.
Taylor Houdasheldt had 16 digs, and Zoey Kiefer added six digs with five kills.
Vinton County returns to action on Saturday at Paint Valley before another TVC showdown on Tuesday at Alexander.