CHRISTOPHER — It took NCOE almost half the first set to find their game, but once they did the Fighting Cardinals swept Christopher, 25-14, 25-11, in a non-conference volleyball game Wednesday.
“Just a little bit of a slow start because of passing and not getting into system,” said NCOE coach Jaclyn Melton. “Once we get the passing there and get into system our attack usually takes care of itself and we get on a roll. It’s our story. Another reason lately is we’ve been battling injuries. We’ve had five girls out with ankle injuries, so last Thursday was the first time we’ve had our original starting lineup since the beginning of the season. So we’re still trying to gel and work some things out.”
NCOE (23-2) was led by senior Halle Everett with 11 and a half kills, sophomore Sophie Neal with seven and a half kills and junior Emily Bishop with five.
“We don’t have a lot of focus in the beginning, but we normally end up picking it up because we’re such a good team because we all work together really well,” Everett said. “Our passing determines our hitting because whenever we have a good pass we can run our full offense and our full offense is really strong. It definitely starts with the pass, so whenever that’s on we can execute hits really well.”
Christopher (8-15) opened the match taking a 3-2 lead on a kill by senior captain Andrea Miller and two shooting errors by NCOE. With the Fighting Cardinals leading, 6-5, the Bearcats retook the lead on a net violation and a kill from the left side by senior Rebecca Henson.
A kill by sophomore Evie Duncan followed by two errors by the Bearcats gave the lead back to NCOE, but once again Christopher rallied to hold a 10-9 lead on kills by Miller and Henson and another error by the Fighting Cardinals. Miller and Henson led Christopher with four kills each.
Bishop tied the score for the eighth time on a kill from the middle. Duncan then served up an ace followed by kills by Bishop and Neal to give NCOE the biggest of the game at the time, 13-10.
Two consecutive net violations by NCOE cut the lead back to one, but an error stopped the Bearcats from tying the score for the 11th time.
Bishop then stepped behind the service line and served up eight straight points to put the first set away. During the run, Neal had three kills and Everett two. Neal and Everett double-teamed on a stuff kill of Courtney Hoppers, and Neal stuffed Henson for another kill, with Bishop adding an ace.
“We got stuck in a rut in the rotation and just couldn’t get out of it,” said Christopher coach Adam Rosoho. “We’ve had that problem all year and haven’t figured out how to do it. They are the best team in Southern Illinois in my opinion, and that’s why we put them on the schedule. You can’t get better if you don’t play the best.”
The Fighting Cardinals used the momentum of the 15-4 run that ended the first set to get off to a great start in the second. Behind the serving of junior Tori Karnes and Everett, the Fighting Cardinals took a 15-3 lead.
With the score tied 1-1 Karnes took to the line and served up an ace with Everett and Neal following with kills from the middle and left side, respectively. Leading 5-2 an error by Christopher and a kill by Everett during Baylee Sutton’s service extended the lead to 7-2.
Then with an 8-3 lead, Everett served up seven straight points, including consecutive kills by Bishop followed by back-to-back aces. After a net serve ended the run, NCOE went on a 7-3 run with sophomore Mattie Wells recording two kills.
Two kills by Everett gave NCOE match point. A stuff kill by Miller on a shot by Duncan followed by a shot in the net held off match point. Bishop put the match away with a kill from the left side.