Lady 'Hounds, Tigers eliminated at district
CONCORDIA -- Both the Sweet Springs and Malta Bend volleyball teams didn't make it past the first round of the Class 1, District 14 Tournament at Concordia.
Both were eliminated by high-seeded squads which had beaten them previously, although Monday's matches were closer than the prior ones.
"We knew going into it that we had a tough road ahead of us," admitted head coach Laura Reinhardt following her fifth-seed Lady Greyhounds' 25-19, 25-22 loss to No. 4 Crest Ridge. "The girls played as hard as they could, but just couldn't pull it out at the end."
The Lady Cougars used three straight hits from 5-foot-11 junior middle Lillian Hunter to jump out to 6-0 lead in the first game, but Sweet Springs battled back to within two points on senior Nicole Bright's ace.
The rest of the set went according to the same form, Crest Ridge leading by as many as five points and the Lady 'Hounds closing the margin -- to as low as one point at 17-16.
"It really turned into a cat-and-mouse game the entire match, whether we were ahead or they were ahead," Reinhardt observed. "It was just back and forth, back and forth, and ultimately they were able to finish it off."
Sweet Springs led most of the second frame after reeling off six points in a row for an 8-2 advantage. The gap narrowed to two points before senior Olivia Loges came up with a block and junior Miranda Tyler served an ace.
After briefly falling behind, senior Megan Evans got two tips and a serve to fall for a 15-13 lead, but afterwards the Lady 'Hounds were unable to string together points. They scored in back-to-back volleys only once, that coming after the Lady Cougars had pulled in front, 23-20.
"Momentum got in their favor and they carried it through," Reinhardt said. "We tried to pull it back on our side, but something just fell apart."
Evans' tip got Sweet Springs to within a point, but then a fault and Hunter blast ended the match.
Hunter finished with 14 kills, seven on blocks, for Crest Ridge (10-17) -- which meets the top seed, seventh-ranked I-70 Conference champion Santa Fe, in Wednesday's semifinal round.
Senior Ashleigh Bright had four spikes and five digs, senior Nicole Bright knocked down three shots and a pair of aces, and Evans provided seven assists for the Lady 'Hounds (6-14-2) -- who lose five starters to graduation.
"Overall, I'm very pleased with how our season turned out," Reinhardt said. "Next year could be a tough start."
Despite a 25-14, 25-6 loss to No. 3 seed Wellington-Napoleon, Malta Bend coach Katie St. Clair was relatively upbeat.
"We improved from the last time we saw Wellington," a 25-9, 25-6 loss six days earlier, St. Clair noted. Considering that junior middle Abby Gass was out and others were playing sick, "we did the best that we could."
The Lady Tigers' approach was to be fundamentally sound, especially on defense, and let their opponent make mistakes. That account for all of their points, 10 on attack errors, in the first set.
"The girls are smart about adapting to their strengths," St. Clair said. "They know they're not strong hitters, so they get the passes back when they can and they hustle."
Wellington broke away with a7-2 run for an 18-8 lead in the first game, although Malta Bend scored five in a row later before surrendering the last five points.
Senior Abbie Thompson had four kills for Wellington in the first set, while junior Morgan Weedman made five shots in the second frame -- those Lady Tigers pulling out to a 14-1 lead.
Wellington (15-9-2) will play in the semifinals against No. 2 Concordia, a 25-0, 25-8 winner over Wentworth Military Academy.
Senior Kayla Kiehl and freshman Hannah Burton each had a kill for Malta Bend in the second game.
For the third straight year since becoming a district qualifier, the Lady Tigers (6-11) posted their best record.
"The girls get a little bit better every year," St. Clair said. "We hope that continues."
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