TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — Every team can’t begin the season with a win.
The Eastern volleyball team started the 2016 campaign on a high note Monday night in Meigs County, as the Lady Eagles claimed a 4-game victory over non-conference guest River Valley, in the season opener for both squads.
Eastern (1-0) never trailed in the opening game, winning by a 25-13 final. In the second game, the Lady Eagles erased an early deficit and led 10-9. The Green, White and Gold ended the second game with a 15-1 run, taking the 25-10 victory, which was capped off by 10 consecutive service points by junior Morgan Baer.
Eastern had just seven serving errors in the first two games, while marking 17 aces in that span.
“Our serving in the first two sets was on and it was phenomenal,” fourth-year EHS head coach Katie Williams said. “We’ve talked a lot about having intensity and keeping intensity, the girls have practiced really hard and they were ready to play. They were excited.”
River Valley (0-1) trailed by as many as five points early in the third game, but the Lady Raiders battled back to take a lead at 14-11. EHS rallied back and regained a 15-14 lead and then the hosts expanded their lead to 17-15. However, RVHS rattled off six straight points to establish a 21-17 advantage.
Eastern regained the lead at 23-22, but River Valley answered by scoring three of the next four points. EHS tied the third game at 25, but the Lady Raiders claimed the next two points and the 27-25 victory, forcing a fourth game.
First year RVHS head coach Megan Elliott credits an attitude adjustment between the second and third games as the key to what changed for the Lady Raiders.
“They needed a little bit of an attitude change,” Elliott said. “They’re attitudes make up most of what they do. If they’re all down, then they have a terrible game, but when they’re motivated and excited it’s a completely different outcome and that’s what we saw in the third and fourth games.”
The teams battled through 11 ties and seven lead changes in the fourth game, the last of which came as part of a five-point EHS run, that turned a 20-18 deficit into a 23-20 lead. The Lady Raiders couldn’t answer back and EHS claimed the 25-21 win and the 3-1 match victory.
To regain focus and claim the deciding game, EHS simply became more offensive minded.
“We started thinking about us and not thinking about what (River Valley) was going to do,” Williams said. “We just starting thinking about what we could do to win this game, instead of being on the defensive the whole time.”
Baer led the Lady Eagles service attack with 23 points and 10 aces, while Morgain Little chipped in with nine points and five aces. Mackenzie Brooks had eight service points, Katlyn Barber and Kelsey Casto each added seven, while Allison Barber had six and Abby Litchfield marked two.
At the net, Eastern was led by Katlyn Barber with 10 kills and two blocks, followed by Brooks and Allison Barber with seven kills and one block each. Little posted three kills, Abbie Hawley added two, while Casto, Baer and Elayna Bissell each had one kill. Baer led the Green, White and Gold with 31 assists in the win.
For Eastern — the 2015 district champion — and Coach Williams — the 2015 district Coach of the Year — the importance of starting the season with a victory wasn’t lost.
“A win is a win, and it wasn’t very pretty, but that doesn’t go down in the scorebooks,” said Williams. “We were resilient, the girls did not give up, and I value that. The girls are working hard and you can tell. It’s fun volleyball to watch and coach.”
Eastern will continue non-league play on Thursday when it visits Meigs.
Carly Gilmore led the RVHS service attack with 13 points and seven aces, followed by Angel Toler with eight points and six aces. Isabella Mershon marked six points, Jaden Neal and Cierra Roberts each added two points, while Rachel Horner and Rayanna Adkins each had one service point.
Gilmore also led the Silver and Black at the net, marking six kills and four blocks. Brianna McGuire had two kills and two blocks, Neal added two more blocks, while Rayanna Adkins, Emily Adkins and Horner each posted one kill. Toler notched a team-best six assists, while Mershon chipped in with five.
“We defiantly covered well, which has been a big thing for us,” Elliott said. “We’re working on communication and I thought they did pretty well with that tonight. They really got to put things in place that we’ve been working on all preseason.”
Depth will be one of the main things RVHS looks to build after this match, as a key front row injury forced on-the-fly changes to the River Valley gameplan.
“We had a messed up rotation compared to usual, because we had an injury to Jessica Steele,” Elliott said. “We had to put a girl in the front row that wasn’t used to that. We defiantly need to work on having options there and being a little more prepared.”
River Valley’s non-league slate continues on Wednesday at Federal Hocking.
This is the lone scheduled meeting for RVHS and EHS this season.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.