Columbus High volleyball seemed to be on the comeback trail in the fourth set of Tuesday's home match with Aurora. Following two blowout losses, the Discoverers stayed alive with a win in the third.
But leading 10-8 in the fourth, Columbus dropped the next 10 points in a row and dropped a third straight match in a 25-16, 25-15, 22-25, 25-17 final.
That 10-point stretch was, in a way, the story of the entire match. CHS gave away eight of the points during the decisive run and continually shot itself in the foot.
Columbus finished with a negative hitting percentage, had 43 attacking errors and nearly 60 errors total when all areas of the match are figured in.
"We knew that's what it was going to come down to coming into it - who was going to make more errors, more unforced errors," Columbus coach Jeri Otten said. "Unfortunately, it was definitely us."
Columbus was underwater on digs with 43 mistakes to 36 kills in 144 attempts. Eight of those came with CHS up 10-8 in the fourth. The Discoverers gave the ball away on a service error, gave away a point on a receiving error, suffered four straight attacking errors and allowed another receiving error and hitting error before an Aurora ace then a block.
Maddie Uhlig ended the run with a kill, but the Discoverers never came closer than eight the rest of the way.
"It wasn't just one person. It was every single player. We all made one or two or three errors," Otten said. "It was far too many for us to be successful."
Errors weren't a major factor in the first-set loss; inconsistent offense was the trouble. Columbus had 10 kills in the set, the second-highest set total on the night, but failed to put together two rallies in a row until the deficit had grown to 20-9.
Mistakes began to dictate the match in the second when Columbus made nine hitting errors, three passing errors and found itself facing holes of 8-3 and then 17-10.
CHS cut attacking and passing errors down to a combined four in the third set, and, not surprisingly, found a way to win. But, of course, it was an adventure.
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Columbus led 8-4 in the early stages on kills by Josie Garrett, Kylie Wisehart and Addi Duranski, a Uhlig ace, Ava Newman kill, Duranski kill, Aurora hitting error and Sadie Evans block.
That 8-4 advantage forced Aurora into its first timeout of the match. The Huskies responded and had drawn to within 15-14 when Otten called for a stoppage.
Columbus led 20-17, found itself tied 20-20, but then used an Aurora passing error, scored three straight on a call for two hits, Newman ace and Garrett kill, then closed out the set win on a kill by Jaleigh Adams-Tuls.
The Discoverers led the second set 2-0 and built a 10-8 when the errors returned and the Huskies won the next 10 straight.
"It kind of evened out," Otten said about the type of mistakes. "At first, we weren't in system, so we just couldn't really be successful. Later on, once we did get some of those opportunities, which you have to take advantage of, we just didn't."
Fixing it, Otten said, will require meeting the challenge head-on in practice - finding specific drills to stop the bleeding when mistakes start to pile up. The drill isn't over until the team is successful again, and again, and again.
She and the Discoverers will have the opportunity to do that for several days in a row. Following a tough opening stretch that has included 12 matches in 13 days, Columbus won't be in action again until Sept. 17 at home against Kearney.
There's an obvious benefit to that much competition. But there can also be a drawback for teams, like the Discoverers, still finding their identity.
"It kind of depends," Otten said. "You hope the other teams are in the same boat."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.