SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — While a fifth game might have been the ultimate climax to Tuesday afternoon's Pacific League girls' volleyball match between archrivals Hoover and host Glendale, the battle during an epic fourth game to decide whether the match would continue proved to be as thrilling as they come.
The Tornadoes prevailed, fighting off game-point four times, to fend off the tireless Nitros, who themselves survived match-point twice before succumbing, 19-25, 25-11, 25-16, 31-29.
"I'm not sure how we [kept our nerves under control]," said Hoover outside hitter Meagan Knight, who had six of her 12 kills in the fourth game, including the sideout that set up Ashley McClure's ace for match-point and finally the match-clinching point. "We just kept on telling each other to calm down, calm down and take it easy. Lots of deep breaths, that was it. There was really nothing to it."
The fourth game saw the Nitros rise up off the mat to answer the Tornadoes' challenge at the net and keep the game going back and forth within a couple of points until Glendale was able to break away for a 20-15 lead on an ace by Trish Nubla.
Hoover (3-6, 2-5 in league) got right back within a point on back-to-back kills by Knight following a block by Allison Zalin for a sideout.
After fighting off match-point twice, Glendale drew one point from forcing a fifth game when Satine Iskandaryan put down one of her four blocks for a 26-25 lead. Iskandaryan (nine kills) would repeat the act three points later to make it 28-27 and the Nitros would lead once again, 29-28, before dropping the last three points.
"In the fourth game, I switched up the rotation a little bit," said Glendale assistant Taase Mose, who filled in for Coach Jennifer Vo. "I put my stronger hitter on the outside. It worked out pretty good for us and I thought we were going to come through, but it was a tough loss."
Glendale (3-8, 1-6) was fairly dominant in the first game behind five kills from Iskandaryan and conversely overwhelmed in the second game that saw Hoover use four kills by Elizabeth Dardov to reclaim control of the match.
"The first game was pretty good, it went pretty well," Mose said. "The second game, they decided not to show up."
Hoover had to deal with a stronger challenge from Glendale in the early stages of the third game, but used a 12-2 run sparked by three Dardov aces to draw one game away from the win.
"We knew we were the better team and we wanted to win this," Knight said. "We really had to win this because our goal is to make it to CIF. When we lost [the first game], we told ourselves, 'OK, calm down, pick it up and we'll get the next one.'"