Monday night’s volleyball match between Elkhorn Valley and O’Neill had the feeling of a playoff matchup as both teams fought tooth and nail in the contest.
It took five sets but when the dust had settled, the Lady Eagles stood victorious.
“The girls worked really hard and they never gave up,” stated EV mentor Emily Vaughn. “they came out really strong in that first set and we kind of backed off in the next two sets. I was excited to see them come back and fight in the fourth (set). The fifth we just couldn’t quite get on offense.”
“I thought it was a great game,” commented O’Neill coach Angie Robertson. “Elkhorn Valley really pushed us. We have big games tomorrow, so we came in here trying to conserve energy. We tried to keep our energy consistent, but we got stuck in a rut a couple of times.”
The Lady Falcons used an early surge to take the first set, 25-21.
Tied at six, EV scored 13 of the next 17 points to claim an 18-10 lead.
The Lady Eagles responded with a 7-0 led by Brianna Bauer's four kills.
The deficit was too much for O'Neill to complete the comeback as Amber Miller won the set with a kill.
O'Neill bounced back early in the second set to claim an early 7-2 lead.
EV chipped away at the lead and eventually tied the match at 16 on a Haley Fleetwood ace.
The Lady Eagles ended the set on a 9-1 run to take the set, 25-17. Five different players recorded a kill led by Haylee Kaufman's six kills.
“Senior night is always hard to adjust emotionally,” Robertson said. “That first set we came out stagnant and it took us a little bit to figure out our game. We always say swing to win. We’re not ones to tip and we adjusted.”
It was all O'Neill in the third set as the home squad won, 25-9.
A 6-1 run to start followed by a 12-1 run put the set away early.
The Lady Falcons did not help their cause by committing 13 errors in the set.
Both teams battled back-and-forth for the momentum, but no one was able to take a clear advantage in the fourth set.
The fourth set had 10 different ties and the largest lead was by EV at 11-7. Tied at 23, a crucial net violation gave the Lady Falcons set point and Miller won the set with a big block, 25-23.
“In that set we worked smarter, not harder,” Vaughn said. “We found some shots that worked for us, served tough and kept them on their heals. That’s just a side-out mentality. They get a point or two, we have to find a way to counter back and get on the attack.”
The Lady Eagles regrouped and jumped out to a 6-0 lead to start the fifth set and cruised to a 15-5 set win to capture the match.
“Our main goal was to get up on them before we got to their main servers that we had trouble passing with,” Robertson said. “We did a better job of that in the sets we won.”
Five different Lady Eagles had at least six kills - with four attackers recording double-digit kills. Kaufman led the way with 13 kills, an ace and two blocks. Bauer tallied 14 kills, two blocks and 19 digs, Blair Gutshall recorded 11 kills, four blocks and two aces, Makayla Hilker accumulated six kills, 26 digs and two aces, Meg Schluns had 12 kills and 12 digs and Alyssa Eichelberger added 51 assists and 14 digs
“We have a young setter (Eichelberger) and we push her to make all these different sets and she’s doing a fantastic job,” Robertson noted. “We like to move the ball around. We know we have a hard hitter in Brianna Bauer on the outside, but she gets targeted a lot. We had to figure out what else we’re going to run when she is getting blocked and they have done a great job. Tonight was one of the best team efforts we’ve had.”
Miller led the Lady Falcons with eight kills, three aces, two blocks, 24 digs and 6 assists. Sierra Rystrom and Hannah Ollendick each tallied six kills, Ollendick added two aces, four blocks and 20 digs, Olivia Nall contributed four kills, tow blocks and 18 digs and Haley Fleetwood served three aces and 12 digs.
O’Neill (16-8) travels to Wayne for a tri-match today to end its regular season.
“This is a perfect way to go into conference games,” Robertson said. “Elkhorn Valley always comes in here and they never want to lay down without a battle. They’re one of the scrappier teams we play and they’re aggressive. This was an outstanding way to start our week off.”
Elkhorn Valley (14-8) hopes to end its season on a high note Thursday as the Lady Falcons host Bloomfield and Madison starting at 5 p.m.
“We’re looking forward to ending the season at home and getting another home match or two,” Vaughn concluded. “The girls are playing well. I hope we come back, respond in a couple of big games, take care of business Thursday and go on from there.”