CLINTON — One of the worries for a coach of a young team is how the players will handle things when the momentum shifts in the opponent’s favor.
The answer wasn’t unexpected Tuesday night at Central Catholic Auditorium.
Riding the wave of an early 11-1 run, Prince of Peace rolled to an opening 25-15 victory against visiting Cedar Valley Christian in Tri-Rivers Conference volleyball. But, once the Huskies won a close contest in Set 2, the Irish struggled to regain their early edge. The result was a 15-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-17 win for CVC.
“With a young team, sometimes it becomes more of a mental breakdown,” Prince of Peace coach Lisa Gogel said of her squad that has one senior and one junior in its rotation that also includes three sophomores and two freshmen. “We lost confidence. We got unsure of ourselves.”
Cedar Valley Christian, meanwhile, starts two seniors and four juniors. Even though he relied a bit more on a pair of freshmen because two starters were ill, CVC coach Jeff Pospisil saw his experience pay off.
“The others stepped up and made plays,” he said.
The Huskies (9-7) also made key adjustments after the Irish dominated Game 1.
The Irish (1-8) got on a roll, starting with a pair of kills by sophomore Sydney Laufenberg on each side of one by freshman Miranda Schnier, giving them a 5-2 lead. They took advantage of hitting errors by CVC on four of the next five points to go up 10-2, then added three more points after the Huskies ended the 8-0 run.
“In the first game, I really liked what I heard,” Gogel said. “They were talking. They moved well. They were trusting each other a lot more.”
A pair of multi-point runs helped CVC cut the gap to 17-11, but Shannon Kuehl served six consecutive points, one an ace, to put the Irish on the brink of the win. They finished it with an Erin Kuehn kill and an ace by Hunter Chapman.
Prince of Peace continued to play well for much of the second set before a string of three hitting errors and a bad set fueled a seven-point CVC run that gave the Huskies a 15-12 lead.
“We caused a lot of our own problems,” Gogel said.
The Irish responded with five in a row, including two aces by Krista Atkinson, to retake the lead.
Once again, though, CVC battled back, scoring on three consecutive Irish errors before a kill by Nicole Hartman on an overpass gave the Huskies a 21-20 lead. Kills by Becca DiVarco and Kuehn put Prince of Peace back on top, but Cedar Valley Christian scored four of the final five points to pull out the win.
“The second game was a big momentum game,” CVC senior Jessie Walsh said. “We got so much energy. That was a game-changer for us.”
Walsh capped a six-point run with a kill early in Game 3 as the Huskies built a 6-3 lead. Kuehn delivered back-to-back aces to cap a four-point run by the Irish, but Walsh tied the game at 7 with a kill that started a seven-point run and the Huskies didn’t trail again in the game.
“We learned how to read the court and found some big holes,” said Walsh, who had four kills in the game and was effective at second-hit push kills.
“We noticed a weakness in their defense and took advantage of it,” Pospisil said. “The other thing was that (Laufenberg, who had 11 kills), is an incredible front-row player, and we tried to make runs when she was out.”
The Huskies also had success with short serves that kept the Irish unable to get into any offensive rhythm.
“We served a lot of short ones, and they couldn’t get them up,” Walsh said.
“They did a great job with short serves and setter dumps,” Gogel said. “They took our middle out and didn’t allow our setters to adjust.”
Prince of Peace hung tough early in the fourth game, but once again CVC seized control with a 9-3 run that included two blocks by Shelby Hembera, a kill by Walsh and aces by Samantha Smith and Hartman.
“I think we were a little mentally and physically fatigued,” Gogel said.
CEDAR VALLEY CHRISTIAN 15-25-25-25,
PRINCE OF PEACE 25-23-18-17
Kills — CVC, Jessie Walsh 11, Samantha Smith 6, Shelby Hembera 6; PoP, Sydney Laufenberg 11, Becca DiVarco 4, Hunter Chapman 2. Assists — PoP, Shannon Kuehl 2. Digs — PoP, Chapman 18, Kuehl 18, Krista Atkinson 11, Erin Kuehn 9. Blocks — CVC, Hembera 2, Maria Sequeira 1. Ace serves — CVC, Walsh 2, Smith 2; PoP, Atkinson 4, Kuehn 4, Chapman 4.
See more To view more photos from Tuesday night's match, take a look at the photo gallery at Clintonherald.smugmug.com.