CLINTON—It was a battle all night at the Joe O’Donnell Sports Center.
The Prince of Peace volleyball team played four tough sets against a significantly taller Alburnett squad, ultimately falling 3-1.
“It was exciting,” head coach Stacie Kenneavy said. “It was a lot of really good volleys, a lot of hustle on both sides.”
Down 14-17 in the fourth set, Anabel Blount put away a kill and then notched a service ace to pull the Irish within one.
After an Alburnett kill, Sarah Moeller got blocked on an attack in the middle to put them behind three again. The Irish struggled to hit around the lengthy Pirate block, especially in the first and fourth sets.
Isabel Hansen came back at the Pirates with a surprise attack of her own on the second touch, then another service error puts the Pirates back ahead three.
Fast forward a couple of side outs and the Irish still trail by three. This time, another serving error gives the Pirates match point, leading 24-20. They closed it out with a kill.
That seemed to be the story of Prince of Peace’s night: close but not close enough. The first set ended 25-23 in Alburnett’s favor. Despite adversity with Paige Kuehl going down after landing funny on her ankle, the Irish came out strong and looked confident in their swings and their defense.
The second set, they came out an dominated. The energy was high, and the front row was getting crucial touches on every attack. Lilly Isenhour ended with four blocks on the night, while Sarah Moeller contributed three.
“They’re able to read when to jump better,” Kenneavy said. “We have been working on blocking a lot.”
Then Prince of Peace deflated in the third set. The Pirates came out cruising, jumping to a 13-3 lead before the Irish were able to get themselves together.
They worked their way back but still fell 25-19.
“They didn’t stop [playing hard], but we were down 13-3,” Kenneavy said. “We just kind of dug ourselves a hole.”
The Irish also struggled against some tough swings from Alburnett. The middle of the court proved especially difficult for Prince of Peace to make the digs, a lot of them falling untouched.
“Our back row is still learning how to line up on the outside shoulder of our blocker so they can see the hitter,” Kenneavy said. “It shouldn’t be such a surprise.”
That also left a lot of passes away from setter Isabel Hansen. The passes off the net left the Irish sending over tips, roll shots and pushes more often than not ... easy for Alburnett to turn around into a kill.
“We didn’t attack it in a normal system,” Kenneavy said. “A lot of our kills came from out of system.”
The Irish fall to 6-8, but still have a large portion of their Tri-River Conference matches left to play. They get to play at the Clinton High School Invitational this weekend before heading on the road for a tough matchup against No. 7 Lisbon.
Kenneavy wants Tuesday’s loss to be a reminder not to give up during those tough marathon matches, which the Irish might see a lot of coming up.
“That don’t quit mentality and staying together as a unity, not getting on each other,” Kenneavy said. “We’re not going to get passed that hump if we down play as a team.”