Maybe it was the pink uniforms. Maybe it was the raucous throng of supporters who made the trip down I-70 to support them.
Or it could have simply been the fact that the Vandalia volleyball team wanted very badly to complete a regular-season sweep against archrival Greenville Thursday.
Whatever the source of inspiration, the Lady Vandals came up with an effort worthy of the cause they were playing for in their inaugural ‘Volley for the Cure’ breast cancer awareness match against the Lady Comets, rolling to a surprisingly easy 25-14, 25-13 victory on the road.
‘I’m ecstatic,’ said VCHS coach Allison Smith of what she described as the best effort by a Lady Vandals team during her tenure as head coach.
‘We’ve played well before – but not that well,’ Smith said. ‘I thought everybody came out and executed everything we talked about in the pre-game.’
Execution was certainly the Lady Vandals’ strong suit, as they committed just nine errors, compared to 20 by the host team.
VCHS also had an edge in intensity. And a lot of credit goes out to the large and rambunctious pink-clad student section that had the Lady Vandals pumped up from the get-go, chanting and cheering each VCHS point – in addition to serenading onlookers with songs during timeouts, including a particularly hilarious rendition of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’
‘I thought our crowd was amazing,’ Smith said. ‘Our kids and our parents just came out and gave us a wealth of support. I think that helped us play so well. There’s not many road games where you have that kind of fan showing.’
The outcome of the match was never in doubt, as the Lady Vandals raced out to a 6-2 lead in the opening game and never looked back.
Greenville took a timeout after falling behind 12-5, but the tactic couldn’t stop Vandalia’s momentum, as back-to-back kills by Amanda Walton and Stephanie Henna extended Vandalia’s lead to 10 points, 16-6.
Following another Walton kill that gave Vandalia a 19-8 lead, Greenville temporarily righted its ship, as a 6-1 run closed the gap to 20-14.
But the Lady Vandals (20-5, 6-1) closed out on a 5-0 run, highlighted by a Henna kill and a Taylor Parrish ace.
Greenville looked poised to force a winner-take-all third game at the start of the second set, racing out to an 8-4 lead. But Vandalia ripped off six straight points to take the lead for good.
Walton then drove the final nails into the coffin, coming up with four kills and a block during a 9-2 run that buried the Comets.
The senior middle hitter finished with nine kills on 12 of 13 hitting and six blocks.
‘Amanda Walton had a fantastic game tonight,’ Smith said. ‘She just played phenomenal.’
As did many of her teammates. Henna added four kills and four blocks, and Mary Davis had 23 assists, including 15 kill assists.
Communication was a key to the Lady Vandals’ success, as they had just four hitting errors all night.
‘Tonight, our communication was as good as it could be,’ said Smith of an area in which the Lady Vandals struggled early in the season. ‘But we want to continue to get better. You can never be too good at communication, especially in volleyball.’
Now, Vandalia has a chance to do something it could never have dreamed of at the start of the season – finishing undefeated against Pana and Greenville.
Fresh off a victory over the host team in the championship of the Pana Tournament – VCHS’s second win over the Lady Panthers in as many matches this season – the Lady Vandals can pull off the feat at home on Oct. 23.
‘I don’t think it’s ever been done,’ Smith said. ‘That’s another goal we’ll set up on our little tripod.’
As it stands, the Lady Vandals could very well be playing for their first-ever outright SCC-East title that night, as they currently hold a one-match lead over Pana atop the conference standings. But some work remains, as VCHS has league matches remaining at Staunton and Litchfield before it meets the Lady Panthers again.
‘We’ve still got a lot of wins we’ve got to get against some tough teams,’ Smith said.
As successful as the Lady Vandals were on the court Thursday, they were even more successful off the court in their fundraising efforts for breast cancer research.
The team set a goal of raising $2,000; they surpassed that goal in T-shirt sales alone.
‘I think we sold all but 10,’ Smith said. ‘We actually had to come to Greenville to get an extra 30. We actually went over the 200-mark selling T-shirts.’
A signed pink game ball was auctioned off to a VCHS supporter for $470, and Smith says Vandalia raised nearly $3,000 all by itself.
Overall, she said, the night couldn’t have been a bigger success.
‘It’s something I’ll always remember, because it’s Greenville and ‘Volley for the Cure’ is something close to my heart, because my grandma died of breast cancer,’ Smith said.
The JV Lady Vandals were also victorious, 26-24, 20-25, 25-10.
Holly Goldsmith had a fantastic all-around game, finishing with 11 kills and seven blocks. Megan Shreve and Haley Wollerman added three aces apiece, while Katie Vieregge had three kills.
Vandalia def. Hillsboro
The Lady Vandals extended their winning streak to 11 by avenging their only conference loss.
VCHS cruised to victory in the opening game and pulled away late in Game 2 with a 5-0 run that turned a 18-17 deficit into a 23-18 advantage.
Hagy and Cearlock had kills during the run, while Henna, Davis and Hagy had blocks.
Henna then closed out the Lady Vandals’ 11th-straight victory with a kill.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever had an 11-game winning streak,’ Smith said. ‘But I don’t want to talk about it too much; I’m a little superstitious.’
The JV Lady Vandals were also victorious, 25-16, 25-22, improving to 11-1. Goldsmith led the way with six kills and seven blocks.
The freshman team also rolled, 25-16, 25-22.