Patchogue-Medford surged out of the gate in its biggest match of the young season Tuesday, but after dropping the second and third sets, it seemed the tide had turned against the Raiders.
Paulina Rutkowski, Caitlin Dellecave and the Raiders responded by playing their best volleyball of the afternoon to earn a comeback win.
Rutkowski had 10 kills and Dellecave set the tone with her passing to lead visiting Patchogue-Medford to a five-set win over Ward Melville in Suffolk I. The Raiders won, 25-18, 19-25, 28-30, 25-18, 25-17.
“It’s the first time we’ve beaten them, so it’s really exciting,” assistant coach Carrie Pickford said. “We have an amazingly resilient team and I think that was obvious from the play here tonight.”
“We’re a pretty young team, so I think it was really great to get this win,” Dellecave said. “We wanted to show we can play, too.”
Patchogue-Medford (3-1) played a strong first set to take an early lead.
“We came in with a mindset that this was a game that we needed to win and that this was a game that could get our season going,” Rutkowski said. “In the first set, we came out with that energy.”
After Ward Melville (2-1) responded by taking the second set, a 58-point third looked like it would be the turning point. Ward Melville took a 20-14 lead in the third, and though Patchogue-Medford fought back to tie the score, the Patriots withstood a series of lead changes to take the set.
“It was one of the most intense sets I’ve played," Dellecave said. "Unfortunately, that one didn’t end up the way we wanted it to."
Rather than getting demoralized, Rutkowski said her teammates were energized by the fight they showed. “They took a big lead but we came back,” the middle hitter said. “Even though we lost, we took that momentum and intensity into the next set.”
That was evident as Patchogue-Medford won the first five points of the fourth set and jumped out to a 16-8 lead, en route to a seven-point win to level the match. In the fifth, the Raiders led 12-6 and responded to a 5-0 Ward Melville run with a 7-0 run of their own to help them close things out.
Kayla Martin added nine kills and Mary Milano had seven aces for Patchogue-Medford, while libero Alexis Stoehrer led the Raiders' defense.
“They came in ready to take this game,” Pickford said. “They were not leaving this gym without the win. Ward Melville is a tough team, with an amazing defense and an amazing offense, so the girls had to adjust and they did.”
Said Rutkowski: “This showed us what we can do, so now we won’t accept anything less from ourselves.”