WHEELING - It has been a long season for the Wheeling Park volleyball team, having lost 22 matches. So a victory against city-rival Wheeling Central on Wednesday night might be enough to cure a lot of ails and send the Patriots into the postseason on a little bit of a high.
So that is just what Coach JT Greer's girls went out and got.
Wheeling Park built big leads early in the first two games before holding off the Maroon Knights late each time, lost a heartbreaker in the third game and closed things out with a four-set, 25-16, 25-19, 29-31, 25-21 victory against Central to spoil its Senior Night festivities at the Knights' East Wheeling gym.
Both teams finished off the regular season with the Red, White and Blue sitting at 5-22, while Missy Gossett's Wheeling Central team dropped to 7-17.
The opener was back and forth early on with both teams either having a one-point advantage or the game tied. However, junior Carly Greer took over midway through with a series of blocks and kills, and even a couple of service points as the Patriots took control.
Park actually turned up the heat with the count knotted at 12-12 and eventually won, 25-16.
Game 2 was the exact opposite as the Patriots jumped to a quick 4-0 lead with Greer in service and exploded out to a 15-4 advantage with Shauntel Saunders picking up nine consecutive service points. Wheeling Park still led 17-8 before the Maroon Knights began chipping away.
Central eventually cut the deficit to four at 23-19 before the Patriots won a point and finished things off on an ace from Lindsey Bise to take a 2-0 advantage.
The third game was a little different in that Coach Greer decided to play for the future and use as many as four freshmen at a time with many of his starters watching from the bench for most of the game. However, it was definitely the most exciting of the four.
Leading by as many as eight, the Patriots watched Wheeling Central chip away a little at a time before finally taking its first lead since 1-0 at 20-19. From there, the teams battled back in forth with each team having three opportunities to put the other away before the Knights finally pulled the trick, gaining a 30-29 lead on Rachel Schuler's tap-over and winning on a Schuler serve.
"I tried some different things in that third game," JT Greer said. "We played a lot of freshmen, with as many as four at a time out there, because I wanted to have the opportunity to work on next year and build for the future. I just wanted a positive."
Looking to wrap things up, JT Greer went back to his starters and, after trailing 4-1 early, got momentum back and again built as much as an eight-point lead. Once again Central battled back, cutting the deficit to 23-21 before the Patriots finished things off with the final two points.
"That was a nice win, I think the team is finally starting to come together a little after losing 22 matches," JT Greer said. "We talked about never giving up and keeping focus and we showed some discipline (Wednesday). The girls worked hard, made some nice runs and everything just kind of came together."
Gossett, meanwhile, was pleased with the effort of her team, especially battling back in the third game.
"Our girls have been fiery at the beginning and end of games all season long," she said. "But for some reason there always seems to be a lull in the middle. Someone yelled that we still had the sectionals when we were losing in that game, but our seniors were just not ready to be done, and there won't be another chance to beat Park and that is what they wanted.
"I think the biggest thing is that we have had so many injuries and have had so many girls playing hurt, the girls are just starting to feel it all."