By John Bombatch
XENIA — No, it wasn’t pretty. But it still looks nice in Xenia’s wins column.
Xenia and Fairborn had a combination of more than 100 errant serves, mishits, line or net violations or just plain ol’ miscues in general, but the host Buccaneers had enough solid hitting from Hannah Propes and Megan Cain to earn a tough 25-21, 25-19, 21-25, 25-23 win over the Skyhawks, Tuesday night at Xenia High School.
Propes smacked a game-high 14 kills and had a service ace while Cain had five kills and a pair of service aces.
“It definitely wasn’t our best last two sets. I think we kind of relaxed a little too much (after getting the two-game lead),” Xenia coach Jessica Threats said. “We need to work on finishing games out all the way to the end.”
Fairborn nearly pushed things to a deciding Game 5 with a nifty rally in the fourth set. Down 11-5, the Skyhawks rallied around Elena North’s strong serving to pull even at 14-all. Xenia pulled out to a 22-16 lead by capitalizing on a handful of Skyhawk errors, combined with service aces by Cain and Victoria Rady, but Fairborn rallied again to close within one point at 22-23.
Almost in honor of the slew of errors in the contest, the match’s last eight points were decided by the opposing team’s errors.
Fairborn coach Tiffany Smith said an injury to a key Skyhawk left her team a little bit out of sync for Tuesday’s match.
“We had an injury to a player this week, and missing that player kind of threw things off a bit for us,” Smith said. Fairborn’s Hannah Borchert was seen gimping around with a protective boot on her foot, but still wearing an encouraging smile for her teammates. “It took until that third set to get us to where we were able to play together as a unit, I think. We still have some work to do. We need to be playing consistently, and finishing the game with more heart.”
Taylor Rice led Fairborn with nine kills, a pair of blocks and a service ace. The Skyhawks’ outside hitter is still adjusting to an all-new group of setters, however, and so that presents further timing issues for Smith’s team.
“Adjusting to the new setters has been our biggest adjustment overall,” Smith said. “Our passing normally has been our strength this year. Today, it was a little off.”
North finished with four kills and a pair of aces and Fairborn teammate Jessica Black finished with two blocks and two kills in the loss.
With the win, Xenia moves into sole possession of first place in the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s American South Division with a 5-1 overall mark, 4-0 in the division. Fairborn falls to 4-4, 3-1 GWOC American South.
“We want to focus on taking care of the matches within our division. We want to win all those and try to win the conference, and we want to do much better in our cross-division games, too,” Threats said.
Xenia has a cross-division challenge up next when they’ll play Thursday at Tipp City Tippecanoe (5-2, 3-2 GWOC American North). Fairborn also takes on a GWOC American North opponent on Thursday. They’ll host Vandalia Butler (4-4, 3-2).