SHERRARD — Coming into Harry Hunt Gymnasium to take on the Sherrard Tigers on their floor, the Annawan volleyball team knew the challenge that awaited it.|
With that task made even tougher by a narrow first-set loss that fired up the Sherrard cheering section even more, the Bravettes rose to the occasion Thursday evening. One night after topping LaMoille in three sets for its first win, Annawan rallied for a similar outcome as it beat the Tigers 24-26, 25-16, 25-21.
"We had our momentum going," said Annawan coach Caitlyn DeMay, whose club is 2-1. "This is a hard gym to play in, so we needed to get our momentum going and play our style, and that's what we were able to do."
A 12-1 second-set run gave Annawan enough cushion to force a winner-take-all third set. The Bravettes parlayed that momentum into a 10-4 start to the third as junior hitter Taylor Miller took the lead. Besides finishing with a team-best nine kills, Miller had two of her three aces to fuel Annawan's fast start in the finale.
"We've come up short against Sherrard the last few years, so we really practiced hard for this one," said Miller, who also had a pair of blocks. "We were really excited, coming off a win (Wednesday) night. We wanted to keep pushing and get two in a row. We were positive, we pulled together and picked each other up."
Miller's play was part of a concentrated front-line effort by the Bravettes. Taylor Shaw notched eight kills, three blocks and 11 digs; Kayla DeMay added seven kills and three blocks; and Kaila Dunfee tallied five kills and a match-best five blocks. Senior setter Rachael Peterson kept it all flowing with 17 assists.
However, Sherrard (4-2) wasn't about to go down quietly. Coming off last Saturday's second-place finish at the Peru St. Bede Invitational, the Tigers pulled themselves together to close the gap to 13-12. But the hosts could never get over the hump.
"We had three full weeks of practice, then jumped into tourney play last Saturday before our first regular match, and it showed (Thursday)," said first-year Sherrard coach Angie Nelson. "We needed to come with our 'A' game."
Sherrard was led by Chrissy Kirwan's match-high 11 kills. Chelsey Crippen added eight kills, five digs, two aces and two blocks and setters Alyssa Bradley and Libby Frye combined for 22 assists. That allowed the Tigers to show the form that carried them to last Saturday's St. Bede finals, where they lost to Minonk Fieldcrest.
"We just need to find a way to play the whole game and not be on a roller coaster," said Nelson. "We did that a bit on Saturday, but we're not quite there yet."
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