She was just kidding, kind of.
Living in the Dover area last year before transferring to Indian River High School, IR junior Makenzie Johnson was at the game in which Polytech’s Emily Campbell served up 15 straight points in the final set against the Indians to win it for the Panthers back in 2015.
So, headed into the fifth and final set against Lake Forest on Thursday, Oct. 6, and in a similar situation, Johnson joked that she was going to do a similar thing.
“Before the set, I was joking… I was like, ‘I’m gonna pull an Emily Campbell and serve 15,’” she said with a laugh.
But no one was laughing when Johnson nearly pulled off just that, serving up 14 straight points before the Spartans finally got their own chance to serve, and before junior Carly Collins knocked down a shot to seal the set 15-3 and the game 3-2.
“It was very nerve-wracking, but it was really exciting,” Johnson said. “Everyone cheering was pretty awesome.”
“It’s almost ironic that she didn’t get that last serve,” said IR head coach Jim Barnes of the impressive rally. “That’s what happened to us last year against Polytech.”
While the game would end in theatrics and get the Indians back to .500, at 4-4 overall and 3-1 in the Henlopen South, the outlook was bleak early on last Thursday’s game, when Barnes had to shuffle the lineup to make up for the absence of senior Shelby Cannatelli, who’s currently recovering from an injury.
Moving junior Julia Bomhardt from her role as middle hitter and blocker to the outside, and senior Sammi Mumford to the outside from her typical role as middle hitter, blocker and setter, the Indians struggled to adjust in the first two sets, falling to the Spartans by scores of 25-22 and 25-21.
“It was such a letdown. We couldn’t get them the ball,” explained Barnes, citing his initial excitement regarding the new offense-oriented rotation.
“It was a risk we took, but once the girls seemed to settle down, it worked out well.”
The turning point was when Barnes turned to his squad after the second set and told them, bluntly, “Well, we just made this a long night.”
Things started to click after that, as Johnson, moving to the setter role, began racking up what would eventually be 24 assists on the night, setting up Bomhardt and Mumford to land their shots as the Indians rolled to a 25-18 win to cut the Lake lead to 2-1.
Tied at 12-12, the fourth set threatened to be the last, before Mumford knocked down two shots at the net to give the Indians a 15-12 advantage.
The Spartans would come back and tie it up again, that time at 16-16, but a spike from Bomhardt gave the Indians back the lead as they ran away to an eventual 25-17 win headed into the fifth and final set and Johnson’s 14 straight points.
Freshman Jessica Amezcua finished with 13 digs in the game. Collins finished with six digs, eight kills and an ace. Freshman Siera Johnson had six kills, an ace, a block and an assist, and sophomore Julia Jordan saw her varsity action with three kills and a block in the game.
Up next, the girls will take on Caesar Rodney (5-3) at home, on Monday Oct. 17, at 5 p.m.