LAWTON — The Bridgman and Decatur volleyball teams put on a show for fans attending Tuesday’s Division 3 district quarterfinal at Lawton High School. The Bees overcame a first-set setback to win 22-25, 34-32, 25-15, 25-18 in a district game that the coaches, players, and fans will remember for a long time. “I knew going in that every game was going to be within two points and whoever made the most mistakes was probably going to lose the game,” Decatur coach Justin Rosema said. “My girls as a whole team really stepped up.” The first set was a back and forth affair between the two teams. The Bees had a 22-20 lead before the Raiders went on a 5-0 run to win the set. “We knew coming in that it would be a good game,” Bridgman coach Jim Ragosta said. “We seemed tentative on the court in the first set and couldn’t find a rhythm.” The Raiders jumped out to a 10-6 lead in set two before a Haley Goff kill kickstarted a 5-1 Bridgman run to tie the set at 11-11. The back and forth continued well past the 25-point threshold and was finally decided when a Goff kill clinched a 34-32 set win for Bridgman. “It was crazy,” Goff said. “Usually the second game doesn’t determine who wins the whole match but I knew going into the 30s that whoever took that one was taking the day. That was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in. Every time I got the ball, I just told myself I had to give it everything I had. I don’t care if I have nothing left for the next hit.
“I have to give it all now because every point means that much.”
Winning the second set changed the scope of the entire game for Bridgman.
“I’m glad we won,” Ragosta said. “That was a big momentum swing for us. My kids work really hard when it comes to conditioning. I think we were pretty fresh towards the end, there.”
While winning the set would have put his team up 2-0, Rosema acknowledged how special that set was.
“I’ve never been in a set like that, ever,” he said. “Neither team could get over the hump. It took a mistake before it would finally end.”
The Bees got off to their best start of the game in set three, taking an 8-3 lead before a Decatur timeout. Bridgman continued to feed Goff, whose back-to-back kills gave the team a 17-10 lead and propelled them to take the set.
Bridgman kept the momentum going in set four with a Goff-Takiya Cornelius combo block, giving the Bees a 4-0 lead. The Raiders rallied to take an 11-10 lead, but the Bees weathered the storm and finished the set on a 15-8 run to win.
“The set two win gave us so much momentum going into the third set,” Goff said. “We let up a little in the fourth set but the momentum was enough to get us through.”
The Bees move on to play the winner of Thursday’s Brandywine-Lawton game. While Ragosta is happy to move on, he knows the team is capable of playing much better.
“I think we have to clean up a lot of things,” he said. “Our middles did well but our blocking was off today. Credit goes to Decatur; they hit a lot of quick balls that were hard to defend. We don’t see that a lot.”
Bridgman’s volleyball advanced to the Division 3 district championship match with a 25-13, 25-23, 25-14 sweep over Cassopolis in Thursday’s Division 3 district semifinal.
The Bees will face Brandywine for the district championship on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Lawton. The Bobcats swept host Lawton on Thursday as well.
Haley Goff led the Bees with 23 kills, nine digs, seven assists, three blocks and two aces. Lily Badger had 21 assists, with Madelyn and Peyton Oman adding 16 and 14 digs, respectively.
Bridgman will prepare to play the Bobcats for the second time in as many weeks. The two teams’ most recent matchup was a Bridgman victory in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Red Division tournament that allowed the Bees to earn a conference championship. “We played them a lot in the last couple weeks, so we’re going to have to come ready to play,” Bridgman coach Jim Ragosta said. “That’s about it at this point of the season — you take it one day at a time, one game at a time. We’re focused on Saturday. It should be a really fun game.” The winner advances to next Tuesday’s regional semifinal against Gobles, a 3-0 winner over Hartford on Thursday.