WYOMING - Through the first two sets hosting Cedar Valley Christian Tuesday, Sept. 22, it appeared the Midland volleyball team was well on their way to picking up their first Tri-Rivers Conference triumph of the 2020 season.
Then, the tide gradually began to turn.
“We came out and played some good volleyball against CVC,” said Eagle volleyball coach Kerrigan Riley, as her team claimed 25-21 and 25-22 wins in the first two games of the best-of-5 match.
“After winning the first two, the girls seemed to get comfortable going into the third set. The different between us and CVC by the end of the night is they swung at the ball and we did not.”
The Huskies rallied to win the final three games (25-17, 25-9 and 15-13) and take the match against the stunned Midland team and their big home crowd.
“We really emphasized to the girls that we need to swing more often rather than just pushing or tipping the ball over the net,” Riley said. “We had a lot of volleys, we just didn’t seem to be the team to end the volley with the point, and that’s what we started working on after Tuesday.”
Bailie Uppena and Allison Paulsen powered the Midland (2-21, 0-3) offense slamming down 10 kills each while Ari Hacke added six more to go with three blocks defensively.
Ella Rupp came up with 22 digs while also setting the tone with the Eagle serving game drilling six aces across the net going 16-for-18 in the match. As a team Midland connected for a whopping 16 aces in the match as Hacke and Allison Paulsen came through with three more each for the hosts.
The Eagles hit the road Thursday, Sept. 25, dropping a tough 16-25, 9-25, 9-25 match at Clinton Prince of Peace.
“We had a lot of different injuries affect our team on Thursday and heading into the weekend as well,” Riley said. “We did not have our libero Ella Rupp and I knew that would affect us extremely since she is our leader in digs. Gracie Harrington stepped up to play that spot for us and did exactly what we needed her to do.
“Prince of Peace has some good hitters, especially Anabel Blount, but we did a better job of swinging and being aggressive at the net. Prince of Peace just had a great night overall.”
Paulsen’s five kills led the Midland offense while Madisyn Kreel set six assists with Hope Saroka adding five more.
The Eagles made a trip to Springville Saturday, Sept. 26, as the Orioles played host for the annual North Cedar tournament as the Knights currently have COVID issues.
After opening the tournament with a narrow 22-25, 24-26 loss against Calamus-Wheatland, Midland took on class 1A fourth-ranked Springville, in what was a homecoming for Riley, who is a Springville graduate and starred for the Oriole program six years ago.
“I wasn’t nervous at all to play Springville honestly, I was excited,” Riley said. “Claude and Tiel Howard (Springville coaches) have literally taught me everything I know about volleyball, so it was pretty cool playing them.
“Claude has really built a program there and it’s cool to see what he’s done. If you would have ever told me I would be coaching a varsity team against my own high school six years after graduating, I definitely would not have believed you. Being a varsity coach has been so much fun, especially for volleyball. All of my years of volleyball under Claude and Tiel have made me the volleyball coach I am now. It was just fun to play a game against the guy who taught me everything.”
Riley’s Eagles hung tough with the talented Orioles early on in the first game before eventually succumbing to 12-25, 10-25 losses.
“Serve receive is what struggled the most in this match,” Riley said. “Springville has such a solid team offensively and defensively.”
Hacke had a big game against the fourth-ranked team in 1A slamming down six kills.
Midland closed the tournament with a 12-25, 23-25 loss in the 5th/6th-place match.
The Eagles were held to eight kills, with Hacke tallying three. Saroka led the Midland serving corps going 9-for-9 with a pair of aces.