Volleyball: Bethel stops Decatur in battle of unbeatens

"In front of the biggest crowd of the season the Decatur Gators and Bethel Braves battled to the most entertaining and well played volleyball match of the season Thursday night at Decatur.We need to play those kinds of games every night, said Bethel coach John Reoppele.Of course he would say that after his Braves pulled out a 9-15, 15-2, 15-12, 15-13 South Puget Sound League victory in front of an estimated crowd of 250 people, including the Decatur pep band.That's what you play the game for, matches like that, said Federal Way senior setter Jody Zaffino, who tossed up 50 assists. We wanted it real bad. They just kind of outplayed us.Bethel gained a taste of revenge, having lost to Decatur earlier this fall in a match that didn't count toward the SPSL standings. The win Thursday lifts the Braves to 6-0 in league play and dropped the Gators to 5-1.We've been preparing for this match all week, said Bethel senior Lacey Gienger. It was great volleyball. That's a great team. We both made a lot of plays.Gienger made many of them herself. She finished with a match-high 29 kills. Karina Philiber added 15 and Loni Ainslie 12 for the Braves.Cristina Null topped Decatur with 18 kills. Jessica Hart added 17 and Dekeidra Brewer 15.It was nerve-racking. I don't know if it was fun, said Brewer, who admitted a win would have changed things. It would have been lots more fun.The Gators had fun in the first game, breaking a 7-7 tie with an 8-2 run. Hart pumped down three kills and Jen Demirjian added two more during that stretch.It was the second game where the Gators fell asleep. The Braves ran away with the game, closing it out with a nine-point service run by Bethel's Annie Lyle.Decatur returned for a thrilling third game, easing out to a 9-5 lead. The rallies stretched out and included many diving saves by both teams. Just as the Braves or Gators thought they'd score with a powerful slam, the other team would dig it off the floor to keep the point alive.We all made a lot of good plays, Brewer said. You can never celebrate too soon because you never know what they're going to do to get the ball back over.The Braves rallied back in the third game behind the seven kills from Ainslie. She powered down Bethel's final side out and its two final points of the game.The fourth game was more of the same. The Gators jumped ahead 4-2 before falling back 11-7. Demirjian and Null combined for four kills to help Decatur back into a 12-12 tie with a combined four kills.An ace by Philiber and kill by Gienger lifted the Braves to a 4-1 run and a 15-13 victory.Any big match I've been associated with, it comes down to passing, said Decatur coach Kelly Kirk. They passed a little better. We couldn't keep our serves away from Lacy Gienger. She just passed everything right to the target.Even with the loss, Kirk appreciated the atmosphere of the game with two powerhouses meeting in front of a raucous full house.It was fabulous, he said. "

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