By Brenden West Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — MORRISON, Ill. — Each time it appeared Morrison or Erie had staked a convincing route to victory, the team on the opposite side of the net had something to say about it.
The Fillies came out with a statement three-set win Thursday, but it took a roller-coaster ride to get there. They led by as many as 10 points over the Cardinals in Set 1 and finished with a 25-19 win. In Set 2, however, Erie battled back with tougher serving and stronger defense to win in even more convincing fashion, 25-16.
In the clincher, the teams played to seven lead changes. The difference, in the end, was the late heroics by Morrison’s big front, which closed out the 25-21 win in front of its home crowd.
“We both know that we need to hit hard. That’s what our main thing is,” Fillies right side Adrienne Banks said. She led the team with two blocks and 13 kills, two coming in the final five points.
“You have to find the other team’s weakness and really hit it,” added middle Lakin Goodman, who had 12 kills — none bigger than her cross-court rip on match point. “Before the match, we told ourselves that we were going to start over, and that’s what we did.”
Erie coach Alicia Murphy said the match was one she’d like to have back.
“We struggled to find our energy and communication,” she said. “Game 1 has been our struggle. We always manage to play better in 2 and 3, and that’s frustrating. But yeah, we were flat in Game 1.”
A big omission to the Cardinals’ lineup was middle hitter Rachel Cobert, who went down with an ankle injury and didn’t dress for Erie. Murphy said she switched her lineup around but didn’t feel that was the reason why her team lost.
“We had some inconsistencies, but there’s no excuse. We’re more talented than what we showed tonight,” she said.
With the Cardinals finding their way, Goodman went on a serving tear early in the opener, turning a 4-4 tie into a 9-4 lead. Later in the set, she rattled off four kills during a five-point Fillies run that brought it to 18-11. Morrison eventually pushed its lead to 24-14 before Erie’s Savannah Mettler sided out with a kill.
With Cobert sidelined, her sister, Courtney — the team’s season-long libero — played middle. That opened the door for sophomore RaeAnna Stover to shine at libero, and she did so with tough late serving in Set 1. She led all players with four aces.
“She had a nice game,” Murphy said. “This was only her second game playing libero. She’s only a sophomore. I thought Rea really stepped up tonight.”
Stover’s serves were enough to take Morrison out of system for a five-point rally. It wasn’t enough to take Set 1, but the run appeared to build momentum heading into Set 2. Erie built leads of 9-6,14-7 and 21-13 that included another five-point service run by Stover. With better passes from the back row, Cardinals setter Brooke Naftzger began running a middle-focused offense featuring several big slams by Delaney Tegeler and Courtney Cobert.
“We adjusted our defense and tried to pick up their attacks,” Morrison coach Jennifer Medenblik said. “We tried to adjust our back to pick up tips. The girls did it.
“They did what I asked for. I told the girls that was a nice way to start the rest of our season because we kind of had a disappointing start.”
Both teams had a share of miscues in their losing sets. By Set 3, it was clear neither team was going to give points away.
On Erie’s side, Mettler extended several rallies with diving saves and good positioning on back-row defense. The junior finished with a team-leading nine digs, several of them involving full-length sprawls across the court.
“I usually just play front row,” Mettler said. “These last few days, coach has really been practicing with our new rotation. I think we were all ready to play and knew what we had to do. I’d say that the first game we just weren’t prepared for what was coming and we dug ourselves a hole.”
Naftzger continued to rely on her middles, but with Morrison’s defense adjustments, fewer balls were falling. And with better passes coming in system, Fillies setter Liz Green began mixing up her offense.
“We kind of let it go in the second,” said Goodman, one of Green’s five options to get kills in the closer. “We kind of used that feeling of losing to help win the third. We knew we had to turn it around.”
Once again, Stover delivered from the service line, forcing a Morrison timeout at 19-all during her three-point run late in the match. Coming out of the timeout, Stover ripped an ace, giving the Cardinals their latest lead at 20-19.
Stover served the next ball out, giving Brooke Ryan the ball. She answered with an ace, and after a Banks kill and an Erie hitting error, the Fillies never looked back en route to the win.
It was a relatively clean match on both sides. Medenblik said the difference to her was a consistent serving attack for her Fillies. Morrison missed two serves, a major improvement compared to the Fillies losses.
“Huge, huge win,” Medenblik said. “Our serves were pretty consistent. We didn’t miss as many serves. ... Sometimes we tend to miss serves at pretty important times in the game. Tonight they didn’t. They made their serves when they needed to.
“I’m proud of the team. The team did what they had to do.”
MORRISON 25-16-25, ERIE 19-25-21
Kills — Erie (Delaney Tegeler 11, Peyton Rus 9, Savannah Mettler 7), Morrison (Adrienne Banks 13, Lakin Goodman 12); Assists — Erie (Brooke Naftzger 29), Morrison (Liz Green 25, Brooke Ryan 6); Blocks — Erie (Rus 1, Tegeler 1), Morrison (Goodman 2, Brooke Stralow 2); Aces — Erie (RaeAnna Stover 4, Naftzger 3, Courtney Cobert 3), Morrison (Payton Kennedy 1, Ryan 1).