MURPHYSBORO — It was the same game times two on Thursday night.
Murphysboro and Herrin played point-for-point in the first half of each game. Then the Red Devils went on big runs with the Tigers’ best player on the bench.
Getting balance through its lineup, Murphysboro notched a 25-13, 25-18 SIRR Ohio win at Memorial Gym.
Lillie Schaldemose pounded down eight kills to lead the Red Devils (9-6, 1-1), while Kylee Kerrens finished with seven and Madison LaBranche added six. Rachel Finders doled out 17 assists and Ashley Jarrett had 11.
For Murphysboro coach Mike Layne, it was a nice recovery from a tough three-set loss Tuesday night in the conference opener at Massac County. The Red Devils won the first game that night, but floundered in the last two, undone by a spate of errors.
“We had some mistakes that led to their runs,” Layne said of the defeat against the Patriots. “We played a cleaner match tonight. I think we only had 10 hitting and service errors combined. There’s a fine line between being very aggressive on the service line and being aggressive with a high IQ. We’re working on it.”
The early storyline was the play of Herrin junior Bianca Huddson. She announced her presence on the first point with a block. The Tigers (3-9, 0-3) fed her repeatedly and Murphysboro couldn’t do much about it.
Huddson’s fifth kill of the first set pulled Herrin within 12-11. Then Finders processed a Jarrett set into a point. And the real problem started for the Tigers, because they had to pull Huddson when the rotation sent her to the back row.
Without anyone else to put the ball away, Herrin managed only two points for the game’s remainder – one on a service error and the other on a hitting error. The Red Devils flaunted their hitting depth during a game-ending 13-2 run.
“When we don’t attack off a serve-receive, we’re just handing them the ball and letting them run that quick offense,” Tigers coach Karen Jurich said. “We just didn’t have an answer for that.”
Game two worked off the same script. Huddson registered a kill and a block early as Herrin grabbed a 6-4 edge, then produced her 10th kill to tie the set at 11.
However, Huddson departed when it came time for her spot to rotate to the back row. On script, Murphysboro busted the game open with a 10-1 run that included eight straight points. Herrin sprinkled in four hitting errors, while Gabrielle Brown added an ace.
How pronounced were the Tigers’ problems without Huddson on the front row? No one else even managed multiple kills.
“Bianca does a really nice job for us, and she was coming off a real big game for us on Tuesday night,” Jurich said. “But I felt like we wasted some opportunities when she was up front. We’re a young team, striving to get better.”
The Herrin roster includes just two seniors, none of whom started, and three freshmen. The lack of experience was telling during big runs in each game.
Prior to the match, Layne told Jurich that someone was going to earn their first conference win. After it, he flashed back to last year, when Murphysboro lost its conference opener to Massac County and then won its last nine conference matches.
“Hopefully, it’s a mirror image of what happened last year,” Layne said. “We’ve got that potential again this year, but it’s a tough, tough conference.”