Warde girls voleyball makes history in win over Ludlowe
As the fifth and deciding game in what had been an epic, and emotional, battle between the Warde and Ludlowe girls’ volleyball teams was just seconds away from starting, Falcons coach Meghan Skelton banged her hand against her clipboard, exhorting the Ludlowe students standing across from her to make some serious noise.
At the other end of the gym, Mustangs coach Matt Narwold paced back and forth like an expectant father, rubbing his hands together to try and calm his nerves.
Nerves? Why nerves? Well, you see since the two schools split apart back in 2005, Warde had never beaten Ludlowe in volleyball. Falcons 10 wins, Mustangs zero wins.
But after Ludlowe took the opening two games of the match, Warde had rallied back to take the next two, setting the stage for a fifth, and final, set. The only question remaining was - would Warde finally end the winless drought against their town rivals?
Yes, they would. In fact, the celebration at Warde might still be going on in some way, shape or form. The Mustangs showed their mettle - Ludlowe showed a lot of heart as well - in rallying back from a two sets to nothing deficit to win the last three sets and beat the Falcons for the first time in program history, taking the match, 14-25, 24-26, 25-18, 25-9, 16-14, the final point coming on a Nicole Vacarella kill, a play that set off a wild on-court celebration between both players and fans and had Narwold almost on the verge of tears.
“This is the first time in Warde history (that the Mustangs have defeated Ludlowe),” Narwold said. ”When we were shaking hands, I looked up at the scoreboard because I still didn’t believe it. We came back from 2-0 (down) … to come back and win, it’s a long time coming. We’ve worked really hard for this. Warde volleyball made a statement tonight of what we’re all about.”
And as the Mustangs players, students and parents celebrated, Skelton gathered her players in a circle in front of the bench and basically told them to remember that feeling.
“I told them to never let this happen again,” Skelton said. “Remember what this feels like. They (Warde) did an amazing job with their play. We’re going to remember what this felt like and come back with a vengeance.”
In the beginning of the match, Ludlowe came out with a vengeance, opening a 12-4 lead in the first game en route to that 25-14 decision. Both Alex McKinnon and Alice Nelson had runs of six service points each as the Falcons took the early lead.
In game two, Warde raced to a 15-9 lead, only to see Ludlowe answer with six straight points behind the serving of Kylie McCaffery, tying the match at 15-15. Warde toughened up and held a 23-20 advantage but the Falcons took six of the last seven points of the set to win 26-24.
A pep talk from Narwold before the third set got the Mustangs refocused and Warde took the next two sets, 25-18 and 25-9, tying the match heading into the fifth set.
“I was like, ‘We have to win … we are going to win’ and it’s was just so great,” Vacarella said. “We knew that had won every single time and that we were the underdogs but we were just go after this and give everything we had, play our hearts out.”
Ludlowe led 12-7 in the fifth set and needed just three points to take the match. They only got two. Four service points from Clare Burns got Warde within 12-11 and then Vacarella took over, with two blocks and two kills to register the Mustangs final four points and start the celebration.
“She’s (Nicole) an amazing player,” Skelton said. “I think everyone is going to have a hard time stopping her. She’s a force to be reckoned with.”
“We went into the fifth set with a mindset like we were starting over. I think we were all a little panicked at the beginning but after we won the two sets to tie the match, we knew we were winning this,” Warde’s Jenny Schneider said. “We took over. We realized that we’ve never beaten Ludlowe before and we were like, ‘how badly do we actually want it?’ and that got us fired up and the fire just never went out. “This is the best night of my life, I’m not kidding.”