STE. GENEVIEVE – The Central volleyball team appeared powerless to stop opposing middle hitter Ella Bertram during the early moments of the opening set on Thursday evening.
Tremendous serving by Valle Catholic senior setter Rachel Loida only made things tougher for the Lady Rebels, whose resolve was sternly tested as visitors in a loud and cozy gym.
But Central would reverse their fortunes by scoring the first five points of game two, and used balanced hitting and aggressive serving of their own to make the Lady Warriors scramble.
Kaley Kimball equaled fellow Junior Lizi Marler with seven kills apiece, and planted her final swing deep in the back row as the Lady Rebels prevailed 18-25, 25-22, 25-22.
Senior Avery Norris totaled six kills plus 13 assists, and connected from the right side to restore a 21-19 Central lead in game three after Valle Catholic nearly erased an entire seven-point deficit.
Bertram brought the Lady Warriors within 23-22 on consecutive kills, giving her 13 for the night, but an ensuing service error gave Central the only match point it needed.
The visitors jumped ahead 12-5 and 13-6 on successful attacks from Marler earlier in the decisive game, and the intensity escalated from there as Valle attempted to chip away.
Bertram provided a solo block and subsequent kill, and her teammates won an outstanding rally after players from both sides calmly pulled errant passes from the net.
Valle Catholic emerged with a clear blocking edge, getting nine doubles from Hailey Weibrecht and six each from Sam Loida and Bertram. But stretches of shaky serve receiving signaled trouble.
The match was just the second of the early season for each squad, but served as a measuring stick and carried big ramifications for seeding in the MAAA Tournament held in mid-October.
Rachel Loida amassed 21 assists and six digs while serving four aces among 16 points. She rotated back for a 7-0 spurt that created an eventual 10-2 lead in game one as Bertram dominated up front.
Norris cut the margin to 14-8, but sketchy passing by Central sent momentum back to Valle. Erin Mueller served back-to-back aces, and Sam Loida found an opening on second contact to make it 23-13.
The Lady Warriors countered the 5-0 start by Central in game two with six straight points to briefly lead 7-6, highlighted by a double block from Hannah Drury and Bertram.
But a nifty dink by setter Addisyn Casey and solo stuff from Kimball on the next point spurred the Lady Rebels toward squaring the match.
Each team made a conscious effort to avoid serving at the opposing libero, and Central capitalized on a few overpasses while managing to keep more incoming attacks in play.
Liberty Coleman and Buckli Moss picked up 10 digs each, and Jessica Hulsey added nine more during the victory. Their team rebuilt a 21-15 advantage in the middle set.
Two Bertram kills and another Rachel Loida ace helped the Lady Warriors draw to within 21-19, but Kimball tipped down a crucial point before Marler made it 24-20.
Casey had a team-high 15 assists for Central.
Weibrecht and Drury sent down six kills each, and Brooke Viox paced the Valle defense with 13 digs. Bryna Blum made 17 serve receptions while Sam Loida and Taylor Zerwig each had seven digs.
The Lady Warriors competed without junior outside hitter and eventual three-year starter Riley Siebert due to injury.