WYOMING - Playing in front of a big socially distanced home crowd on Senior Night Thursday, Sept. 3, the Midland volleyball team put on a show and certainly gave their fans plenty to cheer about hosting East Buchanan in a five-set thriller.
“The girls came out with a lot of energy and excitement and that carried through all five sets,” said Eagle volleyball coach Kerrigan Riley, as her team was handed a narrow 28-26, 16-25, 22-25, 25-21, 10-15 defeat that had Midland fans on their feet applauding their girls’ outstanding efforts at the end.
“We have struggled in the past with maintaining our energy, and the girls did a great of that Thursday night. Although we dropped the fifth set, the night showed a lot of talent and potential for the season. There were a lot of positives.”
Midland (2-5) was led offensively by double-digit kill performances from Ari Hacke and Allison Paulsen who each slammed down 11 in the match on 25 and 27 attacks, respectively. Alyssa Streets chipped in with four kills while Madisyn Kreel and Gracie Harrington came through with three more each for the hosts.
“Overall, our serving was good,” Riley said. “Ali Paulsen came out on top right away in the first rotation and ended up helping us out a lot offensively and Ari had a great night in the middle. She really showed how hard she can hit the ball, which was fun to see.
“Ella Rupp was cleared to play back row (after her ACL injury) for her senior night which was also fun to see. She played the libero spot which is something I thought I’d never see, but she did very well.”
Rupp was busy in the back row, playing her first competition since suffering the knee injury during the basketball season last winter, coming through with 18 digs while Maisie Paulse and Allison Paulsen came through with 13 more each. Hacke (11) and Harrington (10) also recorded double-digit digs in the match for the hosts.
Midland serving was also solid as the team drilled 90-percent overall on the night led by Maisie Paulsen who was 18-of-19 with one ace while Allison Paulsen drilled six aces in the match going 15-of-17 overall. Rupp ripped five more aces and was 18-of-20 on the night.
“Overall, this night has me so excited to see where the rest of the season will take us,” Riley said. “The girls played with a lot of tenacity, and played like one unit.”
Before the varsity match the Eagles honored a huge senior class that included Rupp, Maisie Paulsen, Kreel, Hope Saroka, Streets and Hacke.
The Eagles stayed at home Saturday, Sept. 5, hosting their annual Midland Invitational, though with social distancing concerns a reality, the event was split into two different sites.
The Eagles hosted Lone Tree, Morning Star Academy, Central City and Calamus-Wheatland in Wyoming while Monticello hosted the other site with Springville, Cascade, Central Elkader and Bellevue-Marquette included.
Midland opened the tournament in Wyoming with a 12-21, 9-21 loss against Central City.
“Serve receive is what hurt us in this match,” Riley said. “Our defense was not making the adjustments they needed to against their hitters.
“Central City has a pretty solid team, but we just could not pass well.”
The Eagles tallied just two Allison Paulsen kills in the match offensively while Harrington dug up five digs in the back row.
Rupp and Harrington ripped service aces at the Wildcats leading a solid 89-percent serving corps.
Midland bounced back quickly to pick up their first win of the 2020 campaign with a 21-14, 21-15 sweep of Calamus-Wheatland in the second match of the tournament.
“The girls played with the fearlessness they had on Thursday,” Riley said. “That was a lot of fun to watch. They are starting to understand where to place the ball against certain defenses, which is really refreshing to see them make those plays on their own without me reminding them.”
The Eagle offense slammed down 18 kills in the match led by six from Allison Paulsen (on just 13 attacks) and five more from Streets (on a mere 11 attacks). Hacke chipped in with four more kills while Rupp tallied 10 digs.
Midland serving also played a role in the sweep as the team connected for 93-percent in the match as Rupp, Maisie Paulsen, Streets, Hacke and Allison Paulsen all tallied aces.
Hacke was big on the defensive side of the net as well coming through with four blocks, all of the solo variety while Gracie Franzen and Allison Paulsen added two more each.
The Eagles started their first winning streak of the 2020 campaign claiming a 21-5, 21-9 rout over Morning Star Academy.
Hacke’s five kills led a 13-kill effort in the match while Saroka set seven assists and added two service aces going 10-of-11 from the line.
Midland closed the tournament with a wild 16-21, 25-23, 10-15 setback against Lone Tree.
“The third match against Morning Star was a great game for us,” Riley said. “The girls played at their own pace, which was important.
“Our energy in our match against Lone Tree was not great and ended up hurting us. The girls started to get hung up on errors and played a little more-timid.”
The three-set match saw the Eagle offense slam down 18 kills as a team led by five from Streets. Rupp tallied 11 digs while the serving corps were once again strong as the team drilled 92-percent over the net with Streets going a perfect 14-for-14 with four aces. Rupp and Allison Paulsen added two aces each to the effort.