PARK HILLS – Ainslee Finch has clearly solidified her role as a reliable back-row specialist in two seasons with the Mineral Area volleyball program.
The former Farmington standout showed on Saturday that she still possesses an offensive flair, and helped the eighth-ranked Lady Cardinals lock down a straight-set victory.
Mineral Area hammered away for 19 kills in game one and 17 more in game two, and traded numerous dazzling rallies with Indian Hills while prevailing 25-22, 25-22, 25-19 at home.
Isidora Stojovic knocked down a team-high 15 kills overall, and recorded her sixth on game point in the first set after MAC slowed down an incoming attack at the net.
Finch equaled libero Shelby Meyer with 15 digs each, and scored with back-to-back unreturned serves before spiking successfully behind the 10-foot line to create an 18-14 lead in game three.
Solymar Santos played the final two stanzas at left outside in the absence of starter Katie Duncan, and made it 20-16 after Raylyn Dodd blocked a tip and Emily Greif executed a kneeling dig.
Melissa Avendano targeted the deep line off a long bump set from Meyer, and the Lady Cardinals took the next two points to approach the conclusion at 24-17.
Cindy Penaloza and Dodd each compiled 10 kills with three blocks, and Avendano added nine kills with three blocks as Mineral Area (20-1) won its third match in four days.
Mariana Rodrigues had several brilliant moments for Indian Hills (12-10), including a pair of reaching solo blocks while closing to her right. She also collected 12 kills with 13 digs.
Dodd struck seven times on game-one attacks, tipping and smashing quick sets from Laura Danezzi – who dished out 43 assists – to extend fragile leads of 19-18 and 20-19.
Stojovic sent down an overpass, and Meyer followed with an ace to make it 23-20. Penaloza landed a lighter placement shot at 24-22 before Stojovic connected again from the left side.
Rodrigues stopped a vicious attack by punching the ball with her fist while falling back, and terminated her own swing after rotating forward two points later for an 11-8 Indian Hills edge in game two.
Sydni Basler answered with consecutive digs for the Lady Cards, leading to a Stojovic kill, and Danezzi dumped the second touch over perfectly before the Warriors could react for a 13-12 lead.
Mineral Area won another superb battle at 16-13 on a double block from Penaloza and Santos after Greif raced to the scorer’s table to save and clear an errant ball.
Indian Hills claimed an even livelier exchange to get within 22-21 as Makenzie Eaton flung herself over the sideline to complete a dig that helped Rodrigues spike safely.
But the Warriors sent the ensuing serve into the net in a deflating turn of events. Penaloaza propelled the Lady Cardinals to a two-set advantage by tipping past a double block.
Finch supplied her finest defensive sequence when MAC grabbed a 7-5 lead in game three; sliding first to her right to deny a diagonal spike, then throwing out the left arm for another dig before crashing on her side. Greif hit the floor to reach the next ball, and Indian Hills missed an uncontested swing wide.
Greif finished with 13 digs and Basler provided 11 along with two aces. Mineral Area will resume action Friday at a two-day tournament hosted by second-ranked Iowa Western.
Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org