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ST. ELMO – After the first set against South Central last Thursday, it appeared the Lady Eagles were on their way to a disappointing 0-2 start.
Instead of getting down on themselves, however, the team rallied to lead or hold a tie, including a 24-24 knot in the third set, the rest of the match to earn the upset win, 15-25, 25-20, 26-24.
“That was very exciting,” said St. Elmo coach Elise Asher. “It was a combination of fantastic plays and very aggressive errors on both sides of the floor.”
After South Central senior Emily Atwood got a kill to erase a 19-14 deficit and tie the third set at 19, Asher called a timeout to regroup her squad.
The Lady Eagles regained the serve on a service error, and junior Savannah Feezel killed the next point when the Lady Cougars’ serve-receive came over the net.
Junior Heather Siebert would serve an ace to push St. Elmo ahead, 22-19, and junior Perry Manley would team up with Feezel to put a block on South Central’s big hitter – senior Kinzie Neilson – for what appeared would be the game-deciding point.
Neilson, however, would team up with Atwood for a block to tie the game at 24 six plays later.
“We needed to step back on serve-receive and give ourselves another opportunity,” Asher said. “Perry set that back-row attack to Megan Maxey, and it worked perfectly.”
South Central committed an error on the next serve to give the Lady Eagles a 25-24 lead.
And on the next point, Manley placed a perfect set to Maxey, whose attack was not well-controlled by the Lady Cougars.
“That was a huge break that we needed,” Asher said. “It would have been nice to go out on a kill, but we needed that win.”
In the team’s season-opener last Tuesday, it lost to a much-improved Christ Our Rock team, 14-25, 11-25.
That had to be forgotten quickly or else South Central, a two-time defending regional champion that returned several starters, likely would have breezed to a win.
“It was a wake-up call, but Christ Our Rock is a good team,” Asher said of the loss. “I didn’t expect them to be at the level they are at already. The kids internalized and we discussed, then we didn’t talk about it anymore.”
It was evident from the get-go that the loss was behind the Lady Eagles, as Feezel killed the first point of the night, and she and Molly Hill blocked the next attack.
The Lady Cougars took control of the match following that, however, at times scoring with ease during the opening-set win.
But then St. Elmo opened up a 13-7 lead and didn’t allow the Lady Cougars back within three. Junior Katie Stites blocked Neilson to give St. Elmo a 21-14 lead, before the Lady Eagles took the second set, 25-20.
Asher said the tight battle in the third set – which saw South Central erase a deficit of seven – is what she wants to happen as often as possible.
“I would just as soon have the South Centrals of our nonconference schedule on our schedule, because we know it will be a battle,” she said. “We know that they may win 60 percent, or that we may win 60 percent of the time.”