FORT WAYNE – Bellmont and Bishop Dwenger opened the volleyball season in style Tuesday.
In a match that included a blowout in the first game and a marathon fourth game, the visiting Braves outlasted the Saints 3-2, with scores of 25-8, 20-25, 25-21, 28-30, 15-13.
"You take what you can because it's the first match of the year," Bellmont coach Craig Krull said. "We are going to struggle, and they are going to struggle. You would expect that in midseason form, with two teams going at it like that. I think it is good for these kids to learn to play in that kind of environment.
"(The Saints) got back and pushed real hard, and we weren't ready. Luckily, we kind of settled ourselves, survived it and held on."
After the opening game, most thoughts were on a sweep but instead it was a marathon.
"I want this fight and this passion, that's what I want here," first-year Dwenger coach Tim Houser said. "To go down 25-8 to one of the best teams in the state and telling them they can be one of the best teams in the state, I couldn't be more proud of them.
"We have been preaching this for 2 1/2 months, to never give up. We do a lot of this stuff in practice."
The Braves trailed 22-16 in the fourth game but scored five straight and eventually tied the score at 23. The teams went back and forth into the win-by-two format before Dwenger won 30-28.
The fifth game was tied at 13 before Bellmont scored the final two points.
"It was obviously pretty stressful, but it was exciting at the same time," Bellmont senior Holly Hankenson said. "It just made everybody play aggressive, and it showed us that we aren't going to win every game easily. That's a good lesson to learn early in the season.
"After the first game, I guess we thought we had the games won easily and let our guards down, and that's all it took for them to sneak back in."
Hankenson said although the Braves lost the fourth game, their ability to rally carried over to the deciding game.
"Even though we lost that game, it was important to get that run at the end just because it helped us in the fifth game, which is the most important," said Hankenson, who moved from the outside and played in the middle with junior Sadie Alberson hobbled by an ankle injury and on the sidelines in a protective boot.
Bellmont continues to have Dwenger's number in the traditional season opener between the programs, but it was probably one of the most competitive matches in a while between the Braves and Saints.
"We just want to bring that attitude that it is the next man up, the next point and the next play," said Houser, who replaced John Minnick as the Saints coach. "This is just the beginning of where we are going this year and future years."