By Mark Schmetzer, Enquirer contributor
Mason went into Tuesday’s Greater Miami Conference volleyball match against Sycamore with a half-game lead over the visiting Aviators in the GMC standings.
The Comets enjoyed a slightly wider advantage over Sycamore and a half-game lead over Oak Hills only because they pulled out a close match, edging the Aviators, 25-17, 25-20, 26-24, 28-26.
Mason (10-2, 4-0) came back from deficits of 23-18 and 24-21 and fought off three game points to pull out the fourth game, only clinching in on junior setter-outside hitter Katie Puisis’s kill.
“It was crazy,” said senior outside hitter Molly Tucker. “We couldn’t hear the people in the stands. We could only hear each other on the court.”
Tucker recognized the importance of the win, even though it’s still early in the season, for a team that hasn’t won a GMC crown since joining the conference in 2007.
“This is huge,” she said. “We just think we have such a connection on this team that we definitely have a chance of going far.”
Junior Ally King led the Comets with 14 kills, while Puisis posted a team-high 22 assists and junior libero Kayla Rotund logged 24 digs.
Junior outside hitter Olivia Wells also had 14 kills to lead Sycamore (9-3, 2-1). Junior setter Kristy Russell finished with 44 assists while senior libero-outside hitter Kara Marth piled up 45 digs.
“You can’t take anything away from Sycamore,” Mason coach Tiann Keesling said. “(Wells) pretty much controlled us, and their libero made some great plays.”
Mason’s defense was the key, Sycamore coach Greg Ulland said.
“We got some good swings,” he said. “We just hit it where they were.”
Sycamore led the first game, 6-5, before Mason took control with a 6-0 run sparked by two King kills. Back-to-back service points by sophomore setter Emily Malsch gave the Comets a 21-11 lead.
Sycamore led for most of the second game before Mason put together a 4-0 run for a 19-18 lead. Following a timeout, the Aviators bounced back with a 7-1 run to win the game, with Wells scoring six of the points on kills or blocks.
Game Three was back-and-forth with neither team leading by more than five points. The Comets only clinched Sycamore’s dig of a block by Ally Malsch on game point and Paige Meyer fell untouched because of miscommunication.
Play of the match: Emily Malsch’s diving, right-handed dig near the sideline late in the fourth game, which Mason converted into a point that cut Sycamore’s lead to 21-17.
Star of the game: Tucker with 10 kills and 15 digs for the Comets.
View from the sideline: Ulland on what he told his team: “The better team. We’ve got a team trying to win a championship with no experience. They’re going to have to teach themselves.”
Odds and ends: Mason rode an eight-match winning streak into the match. Sycamore had won four straight. … The Comets are No. 4 in the Enquirer’s Division I coaches poll. The Aviators are ranked 10th. … The match doubled as a Volley for the Cure event, with proceeds from various fund-raising activities benefitting the Susan G. Komen for the Cure of breast cancer. Among the attractions was a match between Mason’s football and wrestling coaches before varsity event. Pink T-shirts with the event’s logo substituted for Mason’s normal green-and-white jerseys, while the normally green-and-gold clad Aviators wore white T-shirts.