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ST. ELMO – The schedule read St. Elmo vs. Patoka, but had there been a marquee for Monday’s volleyball match, it would have read Megan Durbin vs. Paige Myers.
Durbin and Myers, both seniors, are two of the strongest hitters in the Egyptian Illini Conference, and both coaches prepared accordingly.
“We tried to get a block up (against Durbin),” Patoka coach Nicole Brubaker said. “We got a few of them, but not enough to pull it off.”
St. Elmo coach Elise Asher, a 17-year coaching veteran, calls Myers “one of the best athletes” she has ever seen, and said neutralizing her was “absolutely” the team’s No. 1 priority.
By forcing Myers to the back row for long stretches in both sets of St. Elmo’s 25-8, 25-18 victory and allowing her fewer than five serves, Asher’s squad executed their gameplan perfectly.
“We got Paige in the back row and kept her in the back row, which is where, if you want to beat Patoka, you have to have her,” Asher said. “You have to get her off the service line.
“Whenever you have an athlete like her on the opposing team, if you can get her out of her game, it helps your team.”
When Myers was in the front row, the Eagles used as many as three blockers when she was set up for a spike.
Asher said the Patoka game has been circled on the schedule since it came out, and the Eagles displayed their diligent preparation by unleashing an aggressive offensive attack on 10 straight Durbin serves to take a 14-2 lead in the first set.
Durbin continued the barrage later, serving up five more points to give St. Elmo a 22-5 lead. She had four service aces during the match.
“She is a great athlete,” Asher said of Durbin. “She hits such a different variety of shots. She is a very strong front-row player, and a very strong blocker.”
Asher, however, is willing to play Durbin in the back row, which she did toward the end of a tight second set.
“For a kid who hasn’t really played back row, I’m very comfortable leaving her back there, because she has a nose for the ball,” Asher said.