The Rams (4-1) held off a steady push from the Bald Eagles (2-4) of Lock Haven in route to a 3-1 match victory (25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 25-17) in the team’s first match of the day in the Shepherd Showdown tournament in Shepherdstown Friday evening. In the night time match up with Ursuline, the Rams looked strong again, but could not hold off a potent attack from the Arrows (3-1) of Ursuline University, as the Rams fell in five sets (3-2).
Against Lock Haven, the Rams came out hot, jumping out to an early lead. The Rams displayed nice and efficient ball movement, setting up easy kills that went past the outstretched arms of the Bald Eagles. The Rams took game one 25-18, which left the Bald Eagles searching for answers.
Sophomore setter Jessica Karcz set her teammates up in nice position to jump out to this early lead, as she would be a thorn in the side of the Bald Eagles all game long. Karcz would finish the match with 46 assists, causing the Bald Eagles a great deal of frustration.
At times, the Bald Eagles committed mental errors that really ended up costing them, as they were never able to get into a rhythm early on.
However, the Bald Eagles came to play in the second game, as not everything went as easy for Shepherd in game two. The Bald Eagles came out with a new sense of confidence and poise, never getting too high or low on themselves.
This enabled them to hang in the game, and although they lost the game 25-23, they knew they were right in the thick of things and giving the Rams trouble.
In game three, the Bald Eagles kept their momentum up, placing the ball in places where the Rams could not get them. Their passion and effort never dwindled, in part because of the stellar play of libero Shaye Whiteman. She kept her teammates calm and collected, saving many balls from hitting the ground. Whiteman would finish the afternoon tied for the team lead with one ace, while leading the Bald Eagles in digs (20).
The Rams did not display the same level of execution as they did in the earlier games, as they dropped game three 25-23.
Seeing a need to get back on track, the Rams responded in game four with a 25-17 win. The Rams’ talent proved to be the x-factor, as numerous players stepped up and contributed in the turnaround effort to close out the Bald Eagles.
As the stat sheet shows, the Rams were all over the court, as their 90-70 edge in digs proved to be a critical factor in the match’s outcome. Their effort was apparent throughout, as they recognized the need to end the match before Lock Haven got on an even bigger role.
Setter Kristen Nealon led the Bald Eagles with 31 assists, while teammate Breanna McDonald, a setter, finished the match with 15 kills.
Senior middle hitter Christine Jackson made her presence felt with her team-leading four blocked shots, giving the Bald Eagles great frustration.
Against Ursuline, the Rams felt the heat of the competition from the start, as Ursuline came to play. The Rams took game one 25-21, but knew that adjustments had to be made if they were going to win this match.
The Arrows moved the ball well the entire match, finishing with 54 kills that were set up nicely by Katelyn Selleny, who totaled 38 assists during the match.
In game two, the Arrows gave the Rams all kinds of fits, as the team executed its’ ball placement greatly. The Rams, as head coach Alex Hoekstra would comment after the match, also were experiencing a great deal of fatigue, with this being their second match of the day.
Both teams generated good ball movement and got tremendous volleys going, but the Arrows finished off more of their opportunities, winning game two 25-20.
Game three proved to be a completely different story from the Rams, as the team displayed new levels of energy and play that had not been seen all day. Winning the game 25-11 thanks to their efficient play and errors by the Arrows, the Rams looked poised to keep their undefeated season alive.
However, the Rams would go on to lose the next two games 25-21 and 15-12, respectively, to close out the match. The Arrows continued the strong play they had been showing the whole match by continuing to hit balls where the Rams were not.
The Rams did not look the same team that had been playing well the whole day, although, as Hoekstra pointed out after the game, the Rams’ spirit never faded.
Despite the errors and what the Arrows had to throw at them, the Rams did not waver and throw in the towel. Senior outside hitter Amanda Snowden, a team captain, displayed this spirit as well as anyone, as she recorded key points and digs that kept the Rams in it.
In the fifth set, the Arrows simply outplayed the Rams, winning 15-12 in the shortened game. Their momentum and confidence continued to increase as the match went on.
Outside hitter Victoria Henderson gave the Rams all kinds of trouble with her kills for the Arrows. She also led the team in digs with 22. Fellow outside hitter Jessie Lee had 15 kills as well for the Arrows.
The Arrows held an edge in assists (42-40) and kills (54-47). The Rams won the dig department 85-74 and in blocks with a 7-5 advantage.
Sophomore libero Imani Major led the Rams in digs, totaling 25 in the match. Sophomore outside hitter Cambriea Hill and Jackson led the Rams in kills with 16 and 11, respectively.
This afternoon, the Rams’ endurance will be tested, as they will play two more matches Saturday afternoon in the Shepherd Showdown tournament. In the first match, the Rams will take on Alderson Broaddus at 3 p.m., followed by Virginia State at 8 p.m.
In the first video below, Hoekstra, gives his thoughts on the Rams’ performance against Lock Haven and where the team needed to improve for their game later on Friday evening against Ursuline.
The second video has Hoekstra breaking down the loss to the Arrows, as he cited fatigue and an inability to execute when it mattered most being the main reason the Rams lost.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com