HERRIN — The Herrin Tigers won a close first set, but jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the second and cruised to a 25-19, 25-7 win over West Frankfort in an SIRR Ohio Division volleyball match on Tuesday.
"We had a good start in game one, but lost our focus and let them back in, but we finished strong and that carried over in game two," said Herrin coach Karen Jurich. "We've struggled with our consistency all year, so it was nice to see them put a complete match together tonight."
Herrin (12-17, 3-5 Ohio) had a balanced attack, led by senior Hannah Groutage with 11 kills. Senior Cassidy Ray finished with seven kills, followed by sophomore Tori Schullian and junior Marissa Russell with five each.
Senior libero Chelsea Smith was almost perfect in passing, completing 15 of 16, while senior Makayla Smothers dished out 22 assists to go with three kills.
"Our hitters win us games, so it's up to the rest of us to get it to our setter," Smith said. "We had a hard time grouping up in the first set, but in the second we showed what we can do."
West Frankfort (5-11, 0-8 Ohio) was led by seniors Morgan Griffith and Casandra Foote with four kills each.
"We're having trouble getting everything together this year," said West Frankfort coach Megan Price. "Playing as a team is our biggest problem right now."
The Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set on kills by Russell, Groutage and Smothers. A kill from the middle by Griffith stopped the rally. Then three straight missed shots by Herrin gave West Frankfort its only lead of the match 4-3.
"We seemed a lot more confident in the second game," Smothers said. "We weren't doing so hot in the first game, so I'm glad we came together after figuring out what we were doing wrong."
It took back-to-back kills from opposite sides of the court by Groutage to stop the bleeding. The points went back and forth until Foote and junior Madison Freeman scored to tie the set at eight.
However, a net serve snapped West Frankfort's momentum. Two aces by Schullian and a kill by Ray turned the momentum around as Herrin went on an 8-2 run.
The Redbirds fought back, starting with two bad shots by Herrin and ending with three consecutive aces by junior Cali Wright to pull within one point. But once again a net serve stopped the rally. Herrin went on a 8-3 run led by three kills by Ray for set point, and a dink by Russell finished the run.
Smothers scored to open the second set on a cross-court smash from the right side. Smith then stepped behind the service line and served up eight straight points, helped by four West Frankfort unforced errors, to give the Tigers a 9-0 lead.
Kills by Griffith and Freeman snapped the run, but Groutage started another with three kills, and a lucky shot by Schullian that ran down the net extended the lead to 13-2.
Once again, Griffith and Freeman proved to be the rally killers, with a dink from the middle and a smash from the left side. Freeman then added three kills.
Smelling blood, the Tigers went on a 6-2 run, finishing with another ace by Groutage to take a 19-6 lead. An out-of-bounds shot by senior Maggie Connor snapped the run.
Two kills by Ray got the Tigers started again, and after a West Frankfort net violation, Connor found her shooting range and laid down two straight kills to give Herrin match point. Ray then finished the match with a smash from the left side.
"Thankfully they trusted me enough to put me in after missing two weeks with an ankle injury," Connor said. "They kept giving it to me continuously and it didn't take long to get my shot back. It felt good to be back."