CHARLOTTESVILLE — With his team on the verge of a sweep against Eastern Hancock on Thursday night, Greenfield-Central volleyball coach Travis Fuller brought in his broom — Molly Broome.
Sidelined most of the season with a shoulder and a knee injury, Broome entered the third set only seven points away from victory. Her presence made an immediate impact.
Broome, a 6-foot-1 junior setter, set up five teammates, and the Cougars fended off the feisty host Royals to win 25-21, 25-22, 25-19.
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“It isn’t always easy to sit all game against a good Eastern Hancock team and come in and finish it out,” Fuller said.
“There is fluidity with her out there,” he added, noting Broome had been sidelined since April.
Broome logged seven sets prior to Thursday, playing sparingly as she regains strength in both her upper body and rehabs from a bone bruise in her knee.
“It just feels good to get back in,” Broome said. “It felt good to close the game.”
The win put the Cougars back on track after losing to Richmond at home Wednesday 3-1 to halt their season-opening win streak at three straight. Thursday’s victory pushed Greenfield-Central’s season record to 4-1 and gave them a boost before competing in the New Albany Invitational on Saturday.
It was also bittersweet as freshman setter Ali Knecht left the third set with a knee injury, which prompted Fuller to go to Broome, who has 1,641 assists in her three-year varsity career.
“This was the best we’ve been offensively all season so far,” Fuller said. “Ali did an outstanding job. She was running a great offense. We’ll have to see what the diagnosis is. We’ll have to figure that out as we move forward, but it’s nice to No. 1 have a freshman to help us out in that situation, and then to have Molly step up at the end of the game.”
Broome’s first assist went to junior Haleigh Pribble, who finished with a six kills. Morgan Grigsby, a junior outside attacker, buried another Broome assist for a kill, to put Greenfield-Central up 21-18 in the third set. It was her team-leading 13th kill.
Back-to-back assists from Broome to freshman Makayla Price, who registered seven kills, capped the night.
“It does a lot of different things for us having (Molly) in there. Obviously, defensively it helps having a 6-foot block versus a 5-5 block,” Fuller said. “It’s a quicker release point, everything is faster. And we like to go fast.”
The Royals opened up quicker, taking a 4-0 lead in the first set, but nine ties swung the momentum before the Cougars put together a 5-1 run to end it. In the second set, there were three ties until a 7-1 Cougars run gave them a cushion.
Eastern Hancock once again pushed back, however, cutting the deficit to 20-19 with a 6-0 run. A Grigsby kill and a few Royals errors kept the margin in Greenfield-Central’s favor.
“The thing about these girls is they don’t give up. That is why we were coming into this match at 6-3. It’s because they keep pushing and pushing,” Eastern Hancock head coach Cory Rainbolt said. “I told the girls at least take one of them, but we had some service errors that ate us alive. Adrenaline gets the best of us sometimes. But I would have liked to have gotten one of those.”
The Royals (6-4) showed their grit on Monday as they outlasted Mid-Eastern Conference foe Wes-Del 3-2. On Thursday, they followed a similar plan and attacked the Cougars at every opportunity.
Eriel Truitt set the pace with 23 assists. Laurie Eells had six kills and two aces, while Haley Best tallied seven kills. Jenna Smith, a 5-10 middle hitter, recorded four kills, and Faithe Webster had nine digs.
“We had a hard conference match on Monday with Wes-Del. It went to five. It was emotional and physically draining. It was an exciting win, but it took a lot out of us,” Rainbolt said. “But they don’t give up.”
The Cougars, who don’t have a single senior on their roster, refused to lose, especially on defense where junior libero Hannah Burkhart posted 20 digs.
“Tonight it was all about junior leadership. We have freshmen that are capable, and they are really good, but it makes their job a whole lot easier when you have juniors step up. Grigsby was the best she’s ever been in her three years,” Fuller said. “That helps her out, helps Pribble out on the left side and allows us to get Mary Voigt (six kills) going in the middle. The juniors got it going.”
Greenfield-Central 3, Eastern Hancock 0
Kills: Laurie Ells 6, Haley Best 7, Jenna Smith 4 (EH); Morgan Grigsby 13, Haleigh Pribble 6, Makayla Price 7, Mary Voigt 6 (GC).
Assists: Eriel Truitt 23 (EH); Ali Knecht 27, Molly Broome 5 (GC).
Digs: Faithe Webster 9 (EH); Hannah Burkhart 20 (GC).
Aces: Haley Best 1, Laurie Ells 2, Eriel Truitt 1 (EH); Olivia Ellis 3, Ava Antic 3 (GC).