PARK HILLS — With less than one week remaining before an early-season region showdown at Jefferson, the Mineral Area volleyball team continues to seek compatibility within its various lineups.
MAC will chase its second consecutive Region XVI title in early November after replacing key personnel. Last year’s freshmen are receiving more time on the court while working with a new starting setter and libero.
The Lady Cardinals used a home tri-match Thursday night to sharpen their timing and build familiarity, and overcame some glitches to record a pair of victories over two NAIA junior varsity squads.
Outside hitter Maggie Diederich and middle Alexsandra Popovic recorded five kills each during a best-of-three opener, as Mineral Area coasted past smaller Lindenwood-Belleville 25-14, 25-14.
The offense didn’t often click with precision despite the lopsided margin of victory, but MAC still possessed a decisive power advantage at the net. Jami Jackson executed four blocks and matched Janika McIntyre with four kills.
Tiffani Marshall posted four kills to pace LU-Bellevile, which stayed within 10-8 in game one until failing to handle consecutive aces by Taylor Pulley.
Diederich hammered a left-side spike on game point, and the Lady Cardinals jumped to an 8-3 start in the second game when Popovic smashed a floating overpass into a vacated back row.
Krista Mihelsone compiled 17 assists with a higher success rate along the outside. Jackson was forced to tip several times after jumping late on quick sets, but connected on a powerful swing to bring up match point.
Danielle Guseman tallied eight digs and Mihelsone added seven on defense. The Mineral Area back row would face a greater workload later in the evening when defeating Missouri Baptist 25-20, 25-15, 25-19.
Diederich delivered 12 kills and Popovic landed eight while Jackson made four solo blocks for Mineral Area, which seized full command by scoring 14 of the final 18 points in game two.
The Spartans trailed game one from the early stages, but proved difficult to put away. Mineral Area missed a number of serves and gave away free balls resulting from errant initial passes.
Missouri Baptist rallied from 18-12 behind a series of aggressive cross-court swings by freshman Mary Grace Graf, who converted many of her 11 kills from the left outside position.
Hailey Townsend caught the Lady Cards out of position with a kill after the teams rapidly exchanged blocks, and MAC coach Tim Copeland called timeout to settle his crew with a narrow 20-19 lead.
Jackson restored order with a smash off a quick set, then stuffed a middle attack on the next sequence. Mineral Area picked up the final three points to answer another kill from Graf.
MAC extended an 11-10 edge in the middle game with five straight points. The run began with a clever dink by Mihelsone, and was capped when Pulley’s diving save preceded a transition kill from Popovic.
Another 5-0 spurt followed on the ensuing rotation to put the stanza out of reach, and the Lady Cardinals were never threatened after establishing a 15-6 start in game three.
Guseman registered 20 digs and Makayla Nichols chipped in 16 during the win. Mihelsone ended with 28 assists and three aces.
North County graduate Brittany Collins made three kills in each match for the Lady Cardinals (3-3), who will travel to Kaskasia on Saturday.