Bulldogs Rally To Stun Purple Riders

Bridgeport claims final three sets for second straight victory

Photo by Rick Thorp Bridgeport’s Danielle Bradac (21) sends the ball over Martins Ferry’s Lakyn Goff during Wednesday’s contest.

WOLFHURST –After winning just three matches in 2018, the Bridgeport High School volleyball team is two-thirds of the way there just two matches into the 2019 campaign.

It hasn’t been easy, though.

The Bulldogs have gone the distance both times, and rallied both times. The latest nailbiter came Wednesday night inside the John J. Havlicek Gymnasium.

Bridgeport squeezed out a victory in set 3, held on a set later, then rolled in the finale in edging Martins Ferry 21-25, 25-27, 25-23, 25-21, 15-6.

“I love volleyball, but this isn’t the way I want to do it,” Bridgeport head coach Kristin Mazgaj smiled as fans exited Frank Baxter Court following the second thriller in three nights there.

“You know, you want your team to be able to come from behind, but I don’t want to be the team that’s always playing from behind.”

Nevertheless, Mazgaj, the Bulldogs’ second-year head coach, will gladly take the pair of victories and the excitement it’s brought to the program.

“2-0 feels really nice,” she said.

The Purple Riders, however, dropped to 0-2. And although their performance was much better than the one exhibited in their season-opening, straight-set defeat at Beaver Local on Monday, falling after being so close to having the match wrapped up stung.

“We have a young team,” an emotional-drained first-year head coach Jen Olson said. “Until they learn to work together and pull themselves out of it, it’s going to be an up-and-down season.”

The third set featured nine ties, the final one coming at 23-23. The Purple Riders led 17-14, but the Bulldogs went on a 6-0 run to take the lead. It was then that Mazgaj sensed something special was afoot.

“Probably the last five points in the third was when something started to click,” she said. “We understood that, even though it was going long, we had to find it somewhere. If we wanted it, that was the time we had to flip the switch, and they did.”

Did they ever. The Bulldogs came out on fire in the fourth, jumping out to a 9-1 lead. Martins Ferry caught fire late in the set, but it was too late. And in the fifth, Bridgeport jumped out 9-1 again en route to taking the match.

“I was really excited about how they finally put everything together that last set and how they worked,” Mazgaj said.

Jessa Stockwell scored 23 points for Bridgeport and had five aces. Danielle Bradac added 17 points, with seven aces, five kills, five digs and five blocks; Kayleigh Roberts had 16 points; Sierra Simeth registered 15 assists; and Maura Tiber had eight digs.

“I wish it would’ve come together earlier in the match, but they’re together, so we have to carry that into next week,” Mazgaj said.

Rylie Doyle scored 15 points and had 11 assists for the Purple Riders, while Suzanna Bruney scored 12 points. Jordan Hughes scored 14 points; Ava Doyle had six kills; Shelby Thomas had nine points and nine assists; and Lakyn Goff had 10 points.

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