FARMINGTON – The opening rotation of volleyball between Farmington and Perryville provided no hint of the exhausting three-set battle that would ultimately unfold.
More than 30 minutes after missing a golden opportunity to convert their first match point, the host Knights finally succeeded on their eighth such attempt Wednesday night.
Senior Blair Busenbark landed consecutive left-side kills that put Farmington ahead to stay during game three, and displayed her versatility throughout a 25-18, 33-35, 25-20 victory.
Jesse Miller, who embraced a vacant setting role from the back row entering this season, compiled a team-high 19 kills along with 14 assists and 11 digs for the Knights (6-3).
She slammed 11 kills alone during a chaotic second set, as each side turned aside one game or match point after another in an entertaining and intense sequence.
Perryville (2-1) appeared ready to square the contest when senior Sydney Spears scored on a stuff-block and kill to create a 20-17 lead in game two.
Farmington answered with kills by Miller and Jordyn Harris on a back-set, and Busenbark added two more to bring the home team even at 22-22.
The Pirates committed a net violation after failing to clear a previous ball, but were spared when a likely overpass kill by Kaylee Wooldridge was negated by her contact with the net on the follow through.
An errant pass led to an identical call against setter Sarah Bauer – tying the score at 24-24 – and the emotional roller coaster was just beginning with nine more ties to come.
Miller connected on two big swings to erase Perryville set points, but sent a two-handed push shot wide after Lauren Bishop had given the Knights a 30-29 edge from the middle.
A double-block by Kristen Kaempfe and Spears saved the Pirates when they trailed 28-27, and Jaiden Garris delivered a clutch kill to later keep them alive at 33-33.
An ensuing ace from libero Trinity Riney was allowed to drop between two players amid confusion, and Perryville took game two when a final incoming attack found only the net.
Busenbark totaled 12 kills and 15 digs overall, and snapped a 7-7 game three tie with two spikes inside the back line. The Knights calmly surged ahead 14-9 when Riley Wade terminated in her first action of the night.
Wooldridge made it 20-15 with a clean solo block, and the margin reached seven as Busenbark guided a finesse shot safely around two defenders.
Macey Pauls dug a booming attack before the next from the Pirates carried long, and Miller scored with a middle smash to clinch the prolonged outcome.
Bauer dished out 26 assists, and Wooldridge chipped in six kills – including the first and last points of game one – for Farmington. Jenna Nguyen made 10 digs and Pauls added nine more.
The combination of Bauer to Miller clicked three times, and Perryville was whistled twice for illegal contact as Busenbark served the Knights to a 7-0 opening spurt.
Perryville regrouped to trade points evenly following a needed timeout, and some of the more active defensive rallies of the entire contest highlighted the remainder of game one.
Nguyen and Spears reached near the surface from opposite sides to keep one exchange going at 9-2. The Lady Pirates eventually won that point, and made their closest approach at 17-14 on a block.
Miller guided a shot through a maze of players to counter moments after ripping a cross-court kill, and Farmington soon established a 22-15 cushion.
Camryn Baer paced Perryville with 11 kills while Kaempfe had nine and Avery Wibbenmeyer collected eight. Spears made 22 assists plus four blocks, and Riney brought up 12 digs.
Farmington continues a packed two-week stretch of action as one of 58 teams participating in the Dig for Life Classic starting Friday in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at email@example.com