PARK HILLS – Jane Kickham and freshman Melissa Avendano each delivered powerful hitting with 10 kills to lead the unbeaten Mineral Area volleyball team past Rend Lake on Saturday evening.

The 15th-ranked Lady Cardinals (16-0) sharpened their attacks early, and never let up while blitzing the Lady Warriors 25-9, 25-7, 25-18.

Raylyn Dodd and Anica Popadic contributed six kills apiece for Mineral Area, and they each had three blocks defensively.

The Lady Cardinals accelerated to an 11-3 advantage in the first set behind a 6-0 service run by libero Shelby Meyer, who finished with two aces and a team-high 19 digs.

Kickham recorded two aces moments later during a second 6-0 streak that ended at 18-4 on a block by Brooklynn Calcaterra, who led Rend Lake with three kills.

Kickham hustled to save the ball during late rallies, and ended the first set with a fierce spike that hit the floor untouched.

Cailey Bracken and Pam Zuluaga made the difference in the lopsided second set with outstanding pursuit of the ball. Bracken tallied 17 digs in the match, while Zuluaga ended with 10 digs and 29 assists.

Mineral Area played efficiently on each side to create a 13-0 run with Meyer serving. Long rallies again ensued late in the set, but often favored the Lady Cardinals.

Amy Leftridge, who recorded five assists, set up Popadic right in the middle of the net for a solid spike to finish game two.

The Lady Warriors were still fighting following the break despite trailing 2-0. Mineral Area sent several balls into the net, allowing the opposition to stay within striking distance.

Ashley Stokes posted four of her six kills during the hard-fought third set for Rend Lake.

Avendano and Kickham provided enough consistent offense to offset some late miscommunication by the Lady Cardinals. 

Popadic smacked the ball off two defenders before it caromed out of play on match point to finalize the victory.

Stephanie Layne notched three digs for Rend Lake, and Randi Smith had two kills. 

Mineral Area will test its unbeaten record at home against Jefferson College in the Region 16 opener on Wednesday. 

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Sports Reporter

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