Pisgah volleyball opened its conference slate with a dramatic win Tuesday night, topping Smoky Mountain 3-1.

The Bears took the first set convincingly, rebounded from Smoky Mountain taking the second with a big comeback with one of their own in the third and won a tightly-contested third set.

Senior Carter Gibson led the team with 23 kills, senior Paige Griffith led in digs with 16 and junior McKenna Browning led with 38 assists.

“All that we’ve done up until now, Charleston, the competition we played there,” said head coach Josh Simmons. “We scheduled three MAC teams in nonconference. And we tried to do that to get ready for nights like tonight. You feel very accomplished in the fact that we pulled out some tight sets. … To show the resilience that we’ve been working on, it really makes a difference.”

The Bears took the first set comfortably. After Smoky Mountain took a 5-4 lead, Pisgah did not trail again, finishing the set with a 21-13 run to win it 25-17. After the two teams were tied at 6-6, Pisgah ripped off a 6-0 run to take command of the set, and did not lead by fewer than four points after.

“It was big,” Simmons said. “I just really thought that we did a lot of good things offensively. We just played together. They’ve got a lot of talent, but they’ve got to be able to scrap. That’s what we’re identifying going into conference. Let’s just out-scrap everybody and outwork people.

The second and third sets saw the teams trade miracle comebacks.

The Bears were white hot to start the second set, recording five points before the Mustangs got one, and jumping out to a 10-3 lead before the first timeout.

After Pisgah took its largest lead of the match 12-3, the Mustangs fought back, cutting the deficit to three with a 10-4 run. After Pisgah again seemed to have control up 19-13, Smoky Mountain rattled off an 11-5 run to tie it at 24.

The two teams traded the next four points, until Smoky Mountain took its first lead at 27-6, and capped off a miraculous comeback with a 28-26 win in the middle set, fighting off two set points for Pisgah in the process.

In the third set, Pisgah came up with a come-from-behind win of its own.

Smoky Mountain carried its momentum from the second set, racing out to an 8-2 lead before Simmons called a timeout. After Smoky Mountain pushed its lead to 9-2, the Bears fought back, striking to within one with an 11-5 run.

After Pisgah again cut to within one at 16-15, the Mustangs took a 21-16 lead, but the Bears would not go away. Pisgah put up seven straight points to take its first lead of the set at 22-21, reversing its fortunes from the second.

After the two teams battled to a 23-23 tie, Pisgah found its killer instinct, taking the final two points, the set 25-23 and a 2-1 lead in the match.

“We told each other that we had each other’s backs and that we were going to do anything we could to stay behind one another and to stay up,” Gibson said. “Our energy did not get down tonight. And I feel like that was a really big factor.”

After Pisgah raced out to a 6-1 lead in the fourth set, Smoky Mountain took an 11-10 lead with a 10-4 run. After the Mustangs pushed their lead to 15-12, Pisgah again rallied, taking a 17-16 lead with a 5-1 run.

After the teams battled back and forth to a 22-22 tie, the Bears took consecutive points to give themselves a chance to close both the set and match. Gibson came through, giving her team the win with a kill at the net.

“I think we’ve always had the talent to play how we did tonight, we just didn’t have the confidence,” Gibson said. “The confidence really came behind each other, telling us that we were able to do it and having our backs.”

Pisgah will face East Henderson on the road Thursday looking for a 2-0 start in conference play.

“We’ve got some things technically we can work on,” Simmons said. “We’ve got some things grit wise we can work on. But they’re such good kids. I tell them every night how proud I am of them. I tell them everyday how much I love them and I’m proud of them. They deserve this. This is all about them. This has nothing to do with me. They fought for it; they deserve it. But I want to encourage them to do more.”

This article was written and published before Thursday’s match.

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