Cassville downs Wheaton
After the Cassville Lady Wildcats volleyball team dropped their first game of the season on Monday, Sept. 16 to Southwest, head coach Jennifer Nichols wondered how her team would respond. They answered any concerns she had by cruising to a straight set win over Wheaton Tuesday, Sept. 16, 25-19, 25-17.
The Lady Wildcats performance told Nichols something about her team.
"Last night we came out flat, we didn't really play up to our potential," said Nichols. "For them to come out tonight with no days of practice and improve on some of the things we talked about says a lot about them."
Cassville came out of the gate quickly, using an 8-1 run to open up a 12-4 lead.
Senior libero Sydney Curnes keyed the run, serving five consecutive points. Curnes followed up a big solo block by middle hitter Britani Long with two service aces in the next three points to give the Lady Wildcats some breathing room.
That would prove critical as Wheaton would close within 5 points four times the rest of the set.
The Lady Bulldogs rallied behind the net play of outside hitter Emily Killion and middle hitter Mariah Kochell.
Killion came alive late in the set, getting four kills in a 6-point stretch to get within 24-19. But Wheaton next serve found the net to hand set one to Cassville.
The second set started close as the teams tied 6-6. But another Cassville run, this time featuring Long, gave the Lady Wildcats a lead they would not relinquish.
Long notched a pair of kills and served two aces as part of a 12-3 run that put up Cassville 18-9.
Wheaton again looked to rally behind a pair of kills from Kochell getting as close as 6. But Cassville kept the pressure on as outside hitter Jade Null came through with two kills. Long got a stuff block and junior Autumn Scott dropped in a tip to get the lead back to 9 at 24-15.
After Wheaton notched two points, Long put an end to the festivities with her fifth kill of the night, giving Cassville a 3-1 record for the year.
Nichols was quick to praise Long after the junior finished with five kills, three aces and 2 solo blocks.
"Britani has really stepped up this year," said Nichols. "She's a lot more confident player. Her serving has come a long way, and she's been huge for us."
Defensively, Curnes had nine digs for Cassville to lead the way. Junior outside hitter Kelsey Roney also contributed with six digs, prompting Nichols to comment on her transition from the JV squad last season.
"Kelsey really didn't have a lot of defensive experience," explained Nichols. "She's finally learning how to read and move around the block. For her to come out, step up and start playing all the way around in varsity games is big."
Null also had five kills for Cassville and senior Lindsey Nolan had 11 assists running the Cassville offense.
Cassville is looking to build momentum for a busy stretch of games that includes three matches and a tournament in the next seven days.
"Anything we can do to continue building that confidence is gonna help them," said Nichols. "When they are feeling like they're playing good, we are a whole different team than when we are having an off night."
The Lady Wildcats dropped two of three games 23-25, 25-19, 17-25 to lose to the McDonald County Mustangs on Sept. 23.
"Tonight was a great night for us defensively, we just fell short in the end," said Nichols. "McDonald County is a good team and it was a very competitive game."
Statistically for Cassville, Ashley Krallman had eight kills. Lindsey Nolan dished out 16 assists. Mikala Deffenbaugh collected two service aces and Curnes added 17 digs.
Cassville travels to East Newton Thursday night before taking part in the Southwest Tournament Saturday.
Cassville travels to Forsyth on Oct. 1. Matches are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.