By Tom Schultz For the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — FULTON, Ill. — The Fulton Steamers began their homecoming week with a bang, dominating the visiting Riverdale Rams in two straight matches on the volleyball court Tuesday, winning 25-14 and 25-21.
A very focused and determined Steamers team exacted a bit of payback on the Rams, who had beaten them earlier in the season, by executing well and taking advantage of Riverdale’s mistakes.
“The last time we played Riverdale it was probably one of our weakest nights that we’ve played, a low point in our season,” Fulton coach Stacy Germann said about the Steamers earlier effort against Riverdale.
“The last time we played, we didn’t play the best we could, so tonight we really wanted to come out and show what we were made of,” Fulton sophomore Betsy Leonard said.
Fulton definitely showed the Rams what they were made of, holding the lead the entire night and running away with the first set.
“We held it together and we actually got a lead. Normally we don’t start off with the lead, so it definitely helped us tonight,” Fulton senior Rachael Beiermann said. “You feel dominating, and then it gets them kind of down and they don’t come back. It helps.”
They badly exploited the Rams inability to successfully execute serve-receive. That led to a lot of three-hits-and-over for the Rams and then a lot of pass-set-kill for the Steamers.
“They (Rams) couldn’t get that serve-receive pass, and then they couldn’t get that up to their hitter,” Germann said. “They had no choice but to free-ball it over to us. Tonight, a free ball for us was just beautiful; it was a kill for us every time.”
The execution by the Steamers at the net, mixed with their consistent serving, made it hard for Riverdale to keep up in the match, but the Steamers defense wasn’t always in position early on. It made adjustments as the night progressed.
“They listened well tonight,” Germann said. “Defense-wise, we really played scrappy. That sometimes has been where we’ve been lacking, just never giving up on the ball. Tonight there were some plays where they were going for it and they were going to get it. I like that, that’s Steamer volleyball.”
A few times the gaps between the blockers and the back-row players for Fulton was too large, which Riverdale recognized and used to get a couple of quick points and hold off the Steamers momentum.
“Riverdale was getting blocked, and they were struggling with their hits tonight, and they were tipping a lot, so we had to make that adjustment,” Germann said.
Riverdale displayed some power but not nearly enough, and not even close to the same level of what they showed earlier in the season against the Steamers. But, the flashes they did show at the net with the kills, whether they were strong or tips, gave the Steamers a reminder that should Riverdale be given an opening, it would get points out of it.
The Steamers defense had issues with the tips into the middle that went through the early part of the second match, but communication between the players led to the Steamers making the adjustments on the fly and plugging those holes. Once they made the adjustments on defense, Fulton didn’t show any other weaknesses as they closed out Riverdale 25-21.
“We had a lot of confidence going into that second game,” Fulton Junior Jamie Huennekens said.
“We were really clicking today,” Beiermann added.
“We did really good as a team. We hustled and played really hard,” Huennekens said.
Fulton took a step forward on the season with the decisive and well-executed game that showed growth by the players on the court who were playing smart and not just going up and hitting the ball.
“We tried to play smart tonight, just trying to play a smarter game, and the girls really did that tonight,” Germann said. “They played smart, they found their holes and a kill is a kill.”
FULTON 25-25, RIVERDALE 14-21
Fulton statistical leaders
Kills — Betsy Leonard 10, Rachael Beiermann 6, Chelsea Lesniewski 3, Jamie Huennekens 3. Assists — Olivia Edfors 13, Beiermann 11. Digs — Averi Leitzen 13, Edfors 6, Lesniewski 6. Blocks — Leonard 1, Lesniewski 1. Ace serves — Edfors 2, Huennekens 1.
Sophomores — Fulton won 25-10, 25-12.
Freshmen — Fulton won 24-26, 25-21, 15-1.