PARK HILLS – Pam Zuluaga recognized the dazzling hustle of teammate Ainslee Finch to dig three straight incoming attacks during a single rally, and rewarded her with a set toward the back row.

The Mineral Area volleyball team continued to enjoy notable contributions from numerous sources, and kept its perfect record on track yet again Thursday evening.

Cailey Bracken sent down 12 kills while adding eight digs and two aces for the Lady Cardinals, who cemented another piece of school history during a 25-14, 25-21, 25-17 sweep of Kaskaskia.

A stellar 24-0 start equals the longest win streak by any Mineral Area athletics program after the men’s basketball team accomplished that feat last winter.

The next challenge at Jefferson on Tuesday carries hefty postseason implications since a victory would clinch the No. 1 seed for the upcoming Region 16 playoffs.

Melissa Avendano connected for nine kills on 17 swings, and Zuluaga compiled 38 assists and 10 digs in the latest straight-set triumph.

Jane Kickham played exclusively along the back row for a second straight match, and served two aces within a 7-0 scoring run in the opening set.

Emily Eaton, who returned to full strength from an ailing ankle, saw more action at outside hitter and spiked a couple of early kills to power an early 13-6 advantage.

Anica Popadic paired with Bracken on a double block at 16-8, and back-to-back kills from Popadic and Avendano extended the game one separation to 24-13.

Nicole Braner starred in defeat with 10 kills and Taylor Holtgrave made nine digs for Kaskaskia, which offered its strongest challenge during the middle set.

Blake Nohren recorded two kills and two blocks while rotation across the front, and propelled the Blue Angels (14-8) to a momentary lead at 10-9.

Fredericktown graduate Raylyn Dodd highlighted a strong momentum shift, however, with two kills on quick sets and an emphatic solo block within a span of four points.

Finch followed an Avendano kill by serving an ace at 20-14, and Bracken crushed an attack from the left side before using finesse down the right sideline to score after the MAC lead was trimmed to 21-18.

Popadic notched another of her eight kills early in game three before a Kaskaskia blocking presence could be established. She struck again three points later to put the Lady Cardinals ahead 11-5.

The Blue Angels mounted their final charge behind feisty defense. Two tremendous digs by Holtgrave preceded a kill by Nohren, and Braner cut the deficit to 14-12 on her own powerful swing.

Mineral Area responded by taking six of the next eight points to lead 20-16, and Dodd reacted to send down an overpass on her seventh kill to present match point.

Shelby Meyer had a team-high 11 digs, and Finch tallied 10 more for the Lady Cardinals.

Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at


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