FULTON – After 15 points of play Tuesday night, a tornado warning was announced over the speaker in the Fulton High School gymnasium as players, coaches and patrons scrambled for cover in locker rooms, bathrooms and hallways.
Following two brief delays and even a couple ominous flickers from the overhead lights, the Thunder stormed from their dressing room with a newfound sense of urgency.
West Carroll overcame a five-point deficit when play resumed to clinch the first set and held on by a thread in the second to sweep an intense, closely-contested matchup over Fulton by scores of 25-20 and 25-23.
The Steamers jumped out to an early 10-5 advantage before play was halted but coach Stacy Germann did not blame the unexpected intermission for the downward spiral from her team.
"We came out strong but there is a lot of things we did not execute," Germann said. "I thought our defense was executed poorly and West Carroll has a great setter so their hitters had a lot of choices and that left our defense on the narrow."
Fulton was uncharacteristically shaky in terms of fundamentals, highlighted by nine missed serves and 11 hitting errors. However, Germann's concern derived from an attribute not shown in the scorecard.
"To miss nine serves is atrocious but you never want to see your team run and give up when they are losing and I saw a lot of that," Germann said. "I did not see a lot of fight in them tonight, instead there was a lot of apprehensiveness and a lot of fear because they were down."
Despite the shortcomings, Fulton nearly staged a comeback in the second set. Trailing 23-19, the Steamers rattled off four of the next five points to pull the score to 24-23 and put a jolt into the home crowd, but Emily Schipper's attempt was blocked by the net to end the contest.
Schipper finished with a team-high five kills while Kearston Norman added three of her own.
Maddie Meek also recorded five kills to lead the Thunder.
Germann suggested she felt optimistic about her team's chances in a third set if they had been able to complete the comeback.
"I really was hoping we could close that game out because I think we were starting to get back into our groove," Germann said. "You never know with a game three but I think we could have gotten a bit more ground beneath our feet."
The loss marks the first of the season for Fulton and members of the team were talking amongst themselves in the locker room after the conclusion of the contest without the presence of coaches.
"They are in there talking right now because I do not like the way... when you are losing and times get tough, you can not give up," Germann said. "We have to be tougher than that and I do not think we did a good job of that tonight."
Fulton (2-1) will return to action with a trip to Bureau Valley Thursday night while West Carroll (1-1-1) is set to travel to Stockton on Tuesday.