Raiders rally past Rebels in 5

MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Looks like River Valley has let the “Catt” out of the bag.

That’s because, bolstered largely by the play of Catterina Gattinara, the visiting Raiders rallied past the South Gallia Rebels on Tuesday night —prevailing 25-13, 25-27, 21-25, 25-9 and 15-11 in a thrilling five-game non-league volleyball tilt.

The five-foot, 11-inch Gattinara, a foreign-exchange student from Italy, served up 10 aces in leading the Lady Raiders back from a 2-1 deficit — including three aces apiece in the middle three games.

She also added five kills and four blocks — as the senior-oriented Lady Raiders seemed to feed off of Gattinara, who is a junior in the program.

For the Raiders, they improved to 1-1 — following Monday night’s season-opening straight-sets loss against Eastern.

Tuesday’s match marked the season opener for South Gallia, which won the second and third games before allowing the opening seven points of the fourth — and giving up eight of the final 11 points in the fifth.

First-year River Valley volleyball coach Brent Smith said the squad’s “spirit and attitude coming back” in the fourth and fifth sets “was a good thing to see.”

“River Valley, in general, has struggled with that rally in them. That dig deep when times are a little rough. It was nice to see that in arguably three different sets,” he said. “We really wanted it tonight. We fought back and showed a desire to fight back.”

Last season, the Raiders endured a dismal 2-20 campaign, so they already have a win within the opening week.

“I just pointed to the seven seniors prior to the fourth game and said I couldn’t tell them anything that they didn’t know. You either lead and we win, or you continue what we’ve done the last two matches and we lose. They chose to lead, and that spirit came back and that hustle came back and the passing accuracy came back,” said Smith. “We started to get good serving, nothing really into the net or out of bounds. Our kills started coming then. And the last two games is what this team can potentially be all the time. It just took a wake-up call of two ugly games to get there.”

The Rebels, which last season played in multiple five-game matches and benefited from them, couldn’t quite stage a rally of their own.

“We had a lot of first-game jitters,” said second-year SGHS coach Sarah Wright. “We just couldn’t rally back in the games we got down, especially that fourth game. We take this loss and make adjustments and move forward.”

The Raiders, taking advantage of South Gallia’s attacking and serving errors, never trailed in the opening game and rolled 25-13.

But River Valley began making mistakes in sets two and three, and the Rebels responded with kills and aces of their own.

They broke ties of 24-24 and 25-25 in game two, forging the 1-1 tie on a Raider service error and a lift.

South Gallia trailed just once in game three at 4-3 —sandwiched around ties of 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4 —but began pulling away to as large as 21-14, before River Valley crept as close as 22-20 on a Gattinara ace.

The Rebels closed the third game with a Rachal Colburn kill, but the Raiders roared out of the gates in game four to win 25-9.

Gattinara got going as did senior middle hitter Carly Gilmore, as Gattinara notched two kills and two block-kills in the fourth — while Gilmore made three of her seven kills in the set.

“We need to learn to cut around those girls when we face blockers that can block,” said Wright. “We can’t try and power through them when they are good blockers.”

Smith admitted he can’t pronounce Gattinara’s last name correctly, but can’t help but be impressed with her play.

“Her serving…Oh my Lord. I don’t know if there is a better serve on our team. I think she is still adjusting to our scheme, but when she is behind that line, I can count on three or four points every time she is back there,” said the coach. “She has been a great asset so far. When she first came here, all I knew was that she was from a suburb of Milan, Italy. Who knew we were getting a 5-11 well-trained middle hitter that has played since she was eight years old.”

Gattinara’s final ace was a hard and sharp spinning line drive that the Rebels had little to no chance to return.

That made the score 14-10 in the fifth, as South Gallia committed a net violation to clinch the win for River Valley.

The Rebels reverted back to making mistakes in the fifth game as they did in the first —but with less margin for error.

“Missed serves, out hits, just a lack of communication,” said Wright. “The two games we won, we got a good lead to start and we stayed on top of talking to each other. We were getting back to hit, kept our serves in. There weren’t as many missed serves in those two games.”

The decisive set featured seven ties (1-1, 3-3, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8 and 9-9) and six lead changes, as the Rebels last led at 8-7.

But three consecutive hitting errors gave the Raiders a 12-9 advantage, as a service error made it 13-10 for the Silver and Black.

The match, maybe, might have not reached the fifth set had River Valley rallied all the way in the second.

The Raiders, on a Gattinara ace, raced out to a 3-0 lead in game two —before the Red and Gold garnered seven straight points for the first of five ties.

South Gallia held a 24-21 lead late in the second, and overcame its own mistakes for the 27-25 hard-fought triumph.

Gilmore served up four aces, while Kelsey Brown boasted six kills and Isabella Mershon added eight assists for the Raiders.

Colburn collected six points, five kills and three blocks for the Rebels, while Christine Griffith served up 11 points, including three aces, and had four kills.

Erin Evans set for eight assists, and posted three kills with six total points.

Both teams return to the road, and return to non-league action, on Thursday.

South Gallia goes to Symmes Valley, while River Valley ventures to Belpre.

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River Valley’s Caterina Gattinara (10) goes up for a block during the Lady Raiders’ non-league volleyball match at South Gallia on Tuesday night. (Paul Boggs|OVP Sports) Valley’s Caterina Gattinara (10) goes up for a block during the Lady Raiders’ non-league volleyball match at South Gallia on Tuesday night. (Paul Boggs|OVP Sports)

South Gallia’s Christine Griffith (25) goes up for a tip point during the Lady Rebels’ non-league volleyball match against River Valley on Tuesday night. (Paul Boggs|OVP Sports) Gallia’s Christine Griffith (25) goes up for a tip point during the Lady Rebels’ non-league volleyball match against River Valley on Tuesday night. (Paul Boggs|OVP Sports)

By Paul Boggs

Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106