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Post: Blog2_Post
  • Val T.

Down match point, Valley rallies to stun Rochester in 5

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Wagoner recognized for 1,000th career assist


Sports Editor, RTC

Avery Wagoner and Mackaylie Costello have been playing volleyball together since they were second-graders, and on a night in which they celebrated a milestone for Wagoner, the Tippecanoe Valley volleyball stars keyed the comeback of their careers.

Down two sets and facing a match point against in the third set, Valley came all the way back to beat host Rochester 18-25, 18-25, 28-26, 25-17, 15-7 at the RHS gym Tuesday.

Rochester took a 26-25 lead in the third set on a Lillee Lett back row kill. They were one point away from avenging a loss in two sets to Valley at the Warsaw tournament. They were also one point away from beating Valley for the first time in three years.

The point never came.

Betty Shepherd capped a wild rally with a kill to get to 26-all. An Ava Egolf kill gave Valley their third set point.

A kill attempt that floated long from Rochester’s Brailyn Hunter forced a fourth set.

Rochester led 7-5 in the fourth set before Costello became a killing machine. During a 13-2 run, she had seven kills, taking sets from Wagoner and punishing the Lady Zs from the middle of the floor.

After a Wagoner dump, Valley led 18-9.

In the fifth set, Valley scored the first three points on an Egolf kill, a Shepherd stuff block and a Wagoner service winner, and they never trailed.

Rochester hung within 9-7 after a Darah Strasser back row kill and a Lett ace, but Valley scored the final six points to close it out on a Wagoner dump, an Egolf kill, a Hunter kill error, a Costello service winner and two Egolf kills.

Valley coach Jon Hutton was asked to recall his thoughts when Rochester had their match point.

“Just the idea that we had for the last two-and-a-half sets, we had not really activated, and you saw the team that we are in those last couple points where we started to play fearlessly and ferociously, and I felt very, very confident that we were able to make that happen,” Hutton said. “It was just exciting. It was exciting because we got to that point where we didn’t want to lose, and they just did not quit. I was really excited and very happy.”

Rochester coach Laneia Strasser spoke of the mental struggle of overcoming that moment.

“This is a young team, and a lot of it, they have to learn to mentally battle back from things like that,” Strasser said. “Because we have two sets, and they have one, but it’s like you can’t convince them of that. They just have to learn and figure that out on their own.”

Wagoner finished with 52 assists. Costello had 21 kills, five blocks and 12 digs. Wagoner later called Costello “my idol.”

“The first two sets, it was a little rough for us,” Wagoner said. “We were just waking up, but the last three, it was great, and we really made a comeback, and I’m really proud of the team.”

Senior libero Erika Henderson had 27 digs and 29 serves received.

“Erika’s coming back from an injury, so she’s only been back for a couple matches for us, but it’s exciting,” Hutton said. “I got on her about the middle. She keeps telling me that’s my ball. I said, ‘I know that’s your ball. Let’s go get it. You are that girl. You are the boss.’ And she really kicked it in those last two sets.”

Strasser did not like her players’ response to adversity.

“We gave up,” Strasser said. “We changed the tone of how we were playing. We were setting the tone and getting awesome passes and setting the tempo of the game of volleyball, and something switched in the girls’ heads. We couldn’t serve-receive, and it just changed. You could see the looks on their faces. … It’s happened a lot of times, but I felt like we were starting to get over that hurdle.”

Rochester took the early lead as they limited errors, pressured Valley with their serve and limited Costello and Egolf’s hitting damage.

They had runs of 7-0 and 5-0 to open up an 18-11 lead. A Bolinger kill preserved the lead at 21-15, and an Avarie Montel kill off a Valley overpass and an Egolf miss gave Rochester the first set.

Valley led 5-2 in the second set, but a 11-3 run later in the set gave Rochester a 20-12 lead.

A Lett kill put Rochester ahead 24-17, and though a Wagoner dump kept the set alive, Gaby Gonzalez put a serve into the net to give Rochester the second set.

It was more of the same in the third set when Hutton inserted Elise Smith to serve after an Ava Smith kill cut Rochester’s lead to 21-17.

Wagoner was recognized during the match for her 1,000th career assist. She speaks of being a team leader, doing so by “giving them my passion.”

“It’s great,” Wagoner said. “I dreamed of it. I saw Hannah Engstrand do it a couple years ago, and I was just striving to be that, so all the hours in the gym really paid off, I guess.”

Hutton said Wagoner’s milestone is a tribute to her work ethic.

“It’s just a constant reminder that we have kids that are just improving all the time and getting better and better and better,” Hutton said. “For her, I think it’s just great to have recognition because as a setter, you just don’t get that. And it’s great to have somebody say, ‘Yeah, you do a good job all the time.’”

Rochester’s Mia Howdeshell and Keyton Doran both did not play. Howdeshell is recovering from an illness. Asked why Doran did not play, Strasser declined comment.

Tippecanoe Valley def. Rochester, 18-25, 18-25, 28-26, 25-17, 15-7


Elise Smith – 1 kill, 1 dig, 1 assist; Avery Wagoner – 8 kills, 1 ace, 1 block, 7 digs, 52 assists, 1 serve received; Ava Egolf – 10 kills, 1 block, 8 digs, 14 serves received; Betty Shepherd – 9 kills, 1 dig, 2 serves received; Mackaylie Costello – 21 kills, 1 ace, 5 blocks, 12 digs, 3 assists, 9 serves received; Colette Blackburn – 6 kills, 1 ace, 1 block, 2 digs, 1 assist, 6 serves received; Ava Smith – 12 kills, 2 blocks, 5 digs, 1 serve received; Erika Henderson – 1 ace, 27 digs, 4 assists, 29 serves received; Gaby Gonzalez – 9 digs, 10 serves received; Emma Patrick – 6 digs, 13 serves received

Rochester stats

Rylee Clevenger – 1 kill, 1 ace, 16 digs, 1 assists, 29 serves received; Brailyn Hunter – 4 kills, 1 block, 1 dig, 1 assist; Darah Strasser – 8 kills, 1 ace, 1 block, 14 digs, 39 serves received; Aubrey Wilson – 2 kills, 1 ace, 15 digs, 32 assists; Avarie Montel – 4 kills, 2 aces, 2 digs; Lillee Lett – 15 kills, 2 aces, 1 block, 24 digs, 15 serves received; Audrey Bolinger – 6 kills, 2 aces, 1 block, 2 digs, 1 serve received; Logyn Honkomp – 2 aces, 11 digs, 5 serves received

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