Saline's hopes for an SEC Red volleyball championship suffered a major blow Tuesday at home.
Bedford came back from a 24-19 deficit in the first game to win 26-24 and won the next two games 25-22 and 25-18 in a match up of the SEC Red's top two teams.
Tuesday's match was essentially a showdown for the conference championship – barring a major upset in the season's final weeks. Both Bedford and Saline (25-4 overall, 7-2 SEC Red) came into the evening with one loss.
“We've played a lot of teams that weren't as competitive as Bedford. Bedford dug balls that would be points against many of the teams we played,” Saline Coach Kenny Seiler said. “I thought our girls played hard the entire time. By no means did we play poorly.”
Jess Wolma paced the offense with 11 kills and two aces. Ani Agbabian had seven kills. Margo Main had six kills and Kara Rogers had five kills. Angela Szuminski led the defense with 19 digs.
Both teams were fired up for the big tilt. Despite Saline having the home court advantage, Bedford had a larger and louder student section in attendance.
Early in the first game, Saline built momentum on strong hitting by Main and Rogers and a couple of well-placed tips by setter Taylor Whitling. Saline continually built two and three point leads and watched Bedford catchup. Up 16-13, Saline went on a three-point run that included an ace by Wolma. Bedford made it 19-14 and then Main responded with back-to-back kills for a 21-14 lead. Bedford climbed to within three at 22-19 when Main's spike was blocked and went right to Agbabian, who drilled it to the floor. Saline went up 24-19 Alex Cordray's kill gave the ball back to Bedford. Isabella Marciniak stepped up the service line and the Mules went on a 6-0 run to win the set, 26-24.
Seiler said Marciniak simply bested the Hornets.
“That server served the ball well. We had out best lineup out there. We had our best passers out there. We had a great hitter out there. But the server just won the battles. We passed a little too tight and didn't get swings,” Seiler said.
The Hornets came out swinging again in the second set, getting early kills by Melissa Plouche, Agbabian and Rogers for a 4-2 lead. But the game quickly settled into a back-and-forth tilt, with no team able to develop any momentum. Midway through the game, Bedford gained an advantage and seemed to keep Saline playing catchup. Down 13-10, the Hornets got a kill by Wolma and kill by Plouche to tie the game at 13. But Bedford regained and would not relinquish the lead. Twice, Saline got within a point (at 23-22 and 22-21), but Bedford won 25-22.
In the third set, Saline got points with an ace and kill by Wolma, a block by Whitling and kill by Megan Young for a 6-5 lead. But Bedford went on a nine-point run to build the biggest lead of the night.
Saline used kills by Agbabian, Wolma and Sidney Fletcher (from the back row) during a four-point run, the Hornets' longest of the night, to climb back into the game at 19-15. But Bedford prevailed 25-18.
The Hornets host a tournament Saturday.