UNION, Mo. — Marathon matches have already become the norm for a surging Mineral Area volleyball team, although the opportunity was there Wednesday night for a much shorter outing.
The Lady Cardinals could not sustain their momentum from a brilliant third game at East Central, but settled down nicely during an efficient final stanza, and escaped with a 23-25, 25-20, 25-8, 21-25, 15-6 victory.
Outside hitters Brittany Collins and Liza Gray each knocked down 12 kills. Mineral Area (4-4) notched its fourth straight win and played the maximum five games for the fifth time in eight contests.
“It’s been very hectic,” freshman middle hitter Erin Wolford said. “We fall, then we get back up. Our last two games have both been nerve racking.”
MAC was aggressive from the outset of game 5, and surged ahead 7-1 to take command after Wolford spiked her third kill of the opening rotation.
She also combined with freshman Natalie Gremaud for a pivotal stuff-block, and Collins punctuated the ensuing furious rally on the team’s fourth attack. The visitors tallied 11 of their last 15 points on successful spikes.
Gremaud had another balanced effort with 11 kills, 18 assists and 19 digs. Danielle Guseman made 29 digs at libero and Marissa Schroeder recorded five blocks to lead the defense.
Amanda Keetz spiked 10 kills and Hannah Leslie added eight to pace East Central (5-7). Ste. Genevieve graduate Paige Schmelzle compiled 22 assists and four blocks.
The Falcons regrouped from an overmatched stretch to eventually level the match, leading narrowly throughout game four after scoring the opening three points, and answering each MAC challenge from there.
Reetz connected with a spike to make it 16-14 after MAC prolonged a rally with superb digs by Paige Mays and Kayla Thibodeaux. Leslie restored a 19-17 margin with a solo block.
The Lady Cardinals simply dominated game three. Mays followed back-to-back kills from Collins with an ace during a 7-0 run, and resounding blocks by Hanna Glastetter and Collins helped create a 14-3 spread.
Glastetter chipped in eight kills and four blocks while Mays produced 27 digs and Thibodeaux had 22 assists in the win.
Gray was the prominent hitting option early in the match, and Mineral Area moved ahead 9-4 in game one following three straight East Central errors.
But the Falcons denied the middle and right side positions with steady digs as MAC suddenly struggled to generate a rhythm, and overcame a 21-18 deficit. Two lifting violations and a cross-court miss closed game one.
“Our talking on defense was off in the first game,” Wolford said. “When everyone starts to hit well, it’s because we communicate better, and things run more smoothly.”
Mineral Area trailed 14-11 in game two following three straight kills from separate East Central hitters. But solid defense extended a few subsequent rallies, and the Falcons lost three consecutive points on errant swings after missing a serve.
Glastetter answered a Schmelzle block with a kill to put the Lady Cardinals up 17-16. She caught the back line with a 2-handed push moments later, and Gray blistered a spike for a 22-19 lead.
Mineral Area will journey north to Peoria, Ill. this weekend to compete in the Illinois Central tournament. The Lady Cardinals then return home on Tuesday for a tri-match.