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Conference championship on the line for Lady Vandals

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By Andrew Harner

An undefeated conference season is in reach for the Lady Vandals, but to get it, they have to beat Pana on Thursday.

Seven seniors will be recognized prior to the varsity game, and all of them will be looking to make contributions to avenge a loss from earlier this season, when Pana knocked off the Lady Vandals, 10-25, 19-25, in a nonconference game on Sept. 20.

After that game, coach Allison Smith said that the Lady Vandals would have to play more disciplined the next time, and Vandalia will certainly be looking to get some positive momentum before starting the regional tournament next Tuesday.

On a personal level, senior Sierah Ruffner needs three kills to reach 150 for the season.

The night begins at 5 p.m. with the freshmen game, and seniors from volleyball and tennis will honored between the JV and varsity contests.

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Vandalia remained perfect in SCC play on Tuesday at Gillespie, earning a 25-14, 25-17 victory.

Senior Austyn Krueger had a big night for the Lady Vandals (22-5, 8-0 SCC), securing a team-high nine kills and five service aces.

Senior RaeChelle Leiken added six kills, and senior Sierah Ruffner had four.

Tuesday, Oct. 16
Vandalia 25, Gillespie 14
Vandalia 25, Gillespie 17
Kills: Krueger, 9; Leiken, 6; Ruffner, 4.
Aces: Krueger, 5; Shelby Foster, 2; Haley Cothern, 1; Abby Dugan, 1; Megan Godoyo, 1.
Assists: Gabby McNutt, 12; Jessica Sullens, 6.
Record: 22-5 (8-0 SCC)

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Playing volleyball the same day as her practice round for the state golf tournament, it would have been excused if senior RaeChelle Leiken did not get the eight kills she needed to reach 200 for the season.

And though she did meet that goal by securing a team-high nine, it wasn't enough for the Lady Vandals to overcome Carlyle last Thursday in a 16-25, 23-25 loss.

“That kid went to play her practice round in Decatur, so she is plum exhausted,” said coach Allison Smith. “For her to come out and play the way she did, that says a lot about her as a player and her as an athlete.”

The Lady Vandals (21-5) got off to a slow start and never led in the first set against the Lady Indians, who Vandalia defeated, 25-21, 26-24, at the Vandalia Tournament earlier this fall.

But the game seemed as if it was going to shift in the second set, as the Lady Vandals produced eight kills in the first 16 points to take a 10-6 lead.

“Offensively and defensively, we played better in the second set, but we have to play like that all the time,” Smith said.

Carlyle slowly chipped away at the lead until the match was tied at 14, and the Lady Indians would not relinquish the lead after securing it on the next point.

Back-to-back kills from seniors Shelby Foster and Sierah Ruffner brought Vandalia within two at 22-24, but a sharp kill from Carlyle ended the game.

It had been five days since the team had played a match, and Smith said that with all of the other distractions facing many of her starters, it took too long to get back into the rhythm of playing.

“We’ve had a lot of seniors who are getting extremely stressed from making college decisions, deciding if they are going to play, where they want to play and meeting scholarship deadlines,” she said. “We’re trying to get back in the mode of playing.”

Thursday, Oct. 11
Carlyle 25, Vandalia 16
Carlyle 25, Vandalia 23
Kills: Leiken, 9; Ruffner, 5; Austyn Krueger, 3; Foster, 2; Jessica Sullens, 2; Megan Godoyo, 1.
Aces: Gabby McNutt, 1.
Assists: McNutt, 14; Sullens, 3; Foster, 1.
Record: 21-5