Bryan’s volleyball team trailed 14-11 in the deciding fifth set against Swanton in Bryan on Tuesday, and the Bulldogs were serving for both the match and sole possession of first place in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League standings.

All the momentum was on Swanton’s side, too. The Bulldogs won the fourth set and played from ahead for most of the fifth set.

However, Bryan (5-3, 3-0) found a way to close the match on a 6-1 run to win 25-13, 19-25, 25-23, 21-25, 17-15 and claim the first-place spot in the NWOAL.

“We stopped being aggressive during the first part of the (fifth set),” Bryan coach Melanie Reinhart said. “But like we said in that last timeout, ‘If you want to win, you’ve got to play to win.’ So I thought the girls did a great job playing hard in those last five or six points. They took over and did whatever it took.

“We knew it was going to be a fight going in and we knew Swanton was going to give us a good game. They played hard and it was a good battle back and forth.”

After the Bears cruised to a 25-13 victory during the first set, Swanton (8-2, 2-1) responded and played from ahead for most of the second set. The Bulldogs led 19-11 late, and while Bryan did go on an 8-2 run to close Swanton’s lead to 21-19, the Bulldogs responded with a 4-0 run to win 25-19 and tie the match at 1-1.

The third set was played evenly throughout, and with things tied at 23-23 late, the Bears earned the final two points and won 25-23 on a McKendry Semer kill.

That’s when the momentum shifted Swanton’s way. The Bulldogs played from ahead for most of the fourth set on their way to a 25-21 victory and continued to play in front during the fifth set.

But after taking a 14-11 advantage late, the Bulldogs couldn’t hold on as Bryan rallied to win the final set 17-15 to take the match and claim first place in the league.

Reinhart was happy to take the early lead in the NWOAL race. But at the same time, she knows her team has a long road ahead.

“We’ve had a really tough schedule with PH last week and then with Swanton this week we knew we were really going to have to step it up and be ready to compete,” Reinhart said. “And it’s one of those things where we just have to come into practice and keep working hard every day.”

The Bears were led statistically by 37 assists from Courtney Whetro, 25-of-27 serving, four aces and 34 digs from Gwen Spengler, 12-of-12 serving, 12 kills and 11 digs from Semer, 28-of-29 serving and 18 digs from Kelly Miller, 11-of-11 serving and 12 kills from Jess Robb and 10 kills from Abby Fernihough.

“With volleyball, it can be an up-and-down battle every day with practice and games and everything like that,” Reinhart said. “But this is a great team. This is a fun team to coach and we’ve got a lot of kids who like to come out and compete. And I thought they did a nice job of listening to us and coming out and playing hard.”

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