By Cort Reynolds

Ada Herald writer

ADA - Visiting Paulding spoiled the Ada volleyball team's Senior Night Thursday by knocking off the purple and gold in a tight five-set Northwest Conference bout.

The Lady Bulldogs fell to 11-10 overall and 2-6 in the NWC with the 25-16, 27-25, 16-25, 13-25, 15-9 loss. The Panthers improved to 5-11 and 2-6 in league play after their second conference win this week.

"It was a good match," said first-year Bulldog coach Andrew Woodward. "We had a slow start and didn't come out with the fire we needed in the first two sets. It is hard to come back and win the last three."

Paulding took the first game by nine and then won a squeaker to grab a two-set lead that proved to be a bit too much to overcome.

In game two, Ada rallied from a 17-13 deficit to lead 20-18 after an ace by Hannah Price and a slam by Alexis Rhodes that capped a long rally.

The Panthers answered by taking a 23-22 edge yet a second straight kill by Taylor Willeke tied it at 23. Megan Simon fired a service winner but Paulding tied it on an error and ran off the last three points to pull out a deflating 27-25 win.

"It was hard to lose that 27-25 game," Woodward admitted. "We have to start out stronger."

In game three, determined Ada went on an 11-4 flurry to grab a 15-8 cushion. The visitors crawled back within 16-12 before a 5-1 Bulldog spurt rebuilt the advantage to 21-13. Kills by Alexis Amburgey and Rhodes, along with a Morgan Rouch back tip, catapulted the hosts to a longer lead.

A Lindsay Walden serve winner was followed by a Rhodes slam and then a Tori Wyss ace. Ada closed out game three 25-16 on a missed tip by the Panthers.

The Panthers raced to a 12-4 bulge in set four. The Bulldogs rallied briefly before Paulding pulled back in front, 21-14. Ada then reeled off seven consecutive points to tie it behind the serving of Amburgey and multiple Willeke attacks.

After Paulding won a long rally, Rouch stepped up. She hit a clean kill then made a quick set tip. A Willeke kill made it 24-22, Ada. The hosts committed a serving error, but Willeke smacked a kill that was blocked out of bounds to give the Bulldogs a 25-23 win after their decisive 11-2 closing run.

In the final set, Paulding jumped ahead again at 4-0. Two Walden kills and a Rhodes block pulled Ada within 5-4. The Panthers lengthened the lead to 8-5 before Wyss hit a clutch kill, and a tip down the line shortly thereafter by Willeke cut the deficit to 9-7.

A Rouch kill got Ada within 12-9, but Paulding won the next two points to set up match point. The Panthers then fired a curling save that landed just inside the sideline for an ace to finish it, 15-9.

Senior Willeke paced Ada with 17 kills, nine digs and two blocks. Junior Rhodes hammered a dozen kills and made four blocks. Senior Rouch passed up 35 assists, knocked down six kills and added a pair of blocks.

Freshman Simon contributed 14 digs and four aces. Sophomore Wyss served three aces and came up with 12 digs. Sophomore Walden amassed four blocks and four kills. Junior Price added 11 digs.

It was the home finale for Bulldog seniors Rouch, Sam Wildman and Willeke. Ada ended up 7-3 at home this season.

The Bulldogs finish their league and regular season slate Tuesday, Oct. 9 at second-place Crestview. "We still have a match left, then the playoffs," said Woodward. The sectional drawing is this weekend at Elida.