Last year, Fall River was upset at home by the sixth-seeded Burney Raiders.
In the past year, the memory of that defeat has stung and resonated with the Bulldogs, and today in the Division VI Northern Section finals, Fall River and its seven seniors had their chance at redemption.
On the other side, Burney had not been in a title game since winning in 2008, and playing its nemesis and rival made the stakes that much higher. Both teams came out playing their A game, and early in the first set, the two teams looked very even.
Burney led 6-4 early and the match was even, with each point hard fought. When Fall River went on an 8-0 run to take a 12-6 lead, the Bulldogs’ big advantage was up front, with their play at the net and with very effective ball movement.
Burney showed character and strength and came back from this first deficit. Kylie Tiran served them back to within 1, at 15-14, but then momentum swung back in Fall River’s favor, and they went on to win the first set 25-18. In a pattern that would repeat again and again, Fall River would build up a lead, Burney would cut into it, then Fall River would get a big block or kill or a spectacular dig, and swing the momentum back into its favor. In the first set, the center blockers, Paris Gregory, Ciena Gregory and Jessica Mayer stood tall and made the difference.
In the second set, Fall River got terrific serving and Marissa Leighton and Ava Bellino served up some great outside hitting as Fall River jumped out to a big lead 4-0 to start with Myah Gallion serving, 12-5 and again 18-10. But then Ashley Davies of Burney began serving and Burney began the slow climb back in the second set, getting the lead down to 23-20. But as they did repeatedly, Fall River responded to every Burney effort, and took set two 25-23.
In the third set, Fall River jumped out to a 9-0 lead, that the Bulldogs never relinquished, and took set three and the match 25-15. The victory was a true team effort, great blocks, terrific kills, amazing diving digs and saves.
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