MERCERVILLE, Ohio — By serving up plenty of aces, Eastern’s Morgan Baer kept the cards in the Eagles’ favor.
That’s because Baer, in amassing a massive 14 aces in addition to setting for 40 assists, spearheaded visiting Eastern to a 25-15, 25-6, 23-25 and 25-12 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division volleyball victory on Tuesday night at South Gallia.
The Eagles’ junior setter indeed was on a roll, nailing four aces in the first game and another six in the second — including five in a row as part of Eastern opening the second set with 16 consecutive points.
Then, after the young Lady Rebels won the third game 25-23, Eastern opened the fourth game with six straight points — building its lead to as large as 20-7 with four more straight points en route to winning the match.
With the win, Eastern improved to 8-6 — and 6-4 in the TVC-Hocking Division.
South Gallia fell to 2-12 and 2-10 (TVC-Hocking), but did manage to avoid its fourth straight loss in a three-game sweep.
The Rebels played well in the opening and third games, perhaps taking advantage of Eastern’s energy level —as the Eagles endured a draining, heart-stopping, hard-fought five-game encounter against league leader Waterford on Monday night.
Eastern opened the first two games against the Wildcats with wins, but lost in the final three, including 16-14 in the decisive fifth game.
On Tuesday, it had relatively easy wins in the opening two sets, but let a 10-4 lead evaporate into a third-set loss before bouncing back in the fourth game.
“We were a little tired tonight and it’s a long bus ride. But that’s no excuse and the girls know that. Every game is something brand new and you have to come out like you are defending a championship. Everybody wants to win and any team can win on any night,” said Eastern coach Katie Williams. “I think our girls lost focus after that second set. My message to them before the fourth set was basically to regain their focus or they were going to walk out of here (South Gallia) with something that they didn’t want. In the third and even some in the fourth game, our serving was off-kilter.”
But not for Baer.
In the first game, amid five lead changes and ties of 1,-1, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10 and finally 12-12, back-to-back-to-back Baer aces — along with a Morgain Little kill — put the Eagles in front for good.
From there, Eastern amassed nine of the final dozen points to win 25-15.
Baer, along with Katlyn Barber’s three kills and a solo block, bolstered Eastern to the 16-0 lead in game two — en route to the 25-6 rout.
“In the second game, we had phenomenal serving from Morgan Baer. She was putting the ball exactly where we needed her to,” said Williams. “She served hard and consistent and that’s what we look for.”
The Lady Rebels’ six points in the second set came courtesy of a Rachal Colburn kill, a Colburn ace, two attack errors, a service error and a hitting error.
But South Gallia got one back in game three, amid six lead changes and erasing a 10-4 deficit to take a 15-14 lead on another Colburn kill.
An Eastern attack error and a cross-court kill by Taylor Burnette made it 22-20 South Gallia, but the Eagles earned three points in a row on an Allison Barber kill and back-to-back aces by Mackenzie Brooks.
But an Eagle service error, along with back-to-back aces from freshman Kiley Stapleton, clinched the third game for South Gallia.
However, the Lady Rebels could not maintain the momentum in the fourth game, with Eastern opening with six straight points — as Baer served for three more aces and Little (five) and Katlyn Barber (six) combined for 11 of the club’s 14 kills.
Eastern also forced South Gallia, much like in the second game, into several errors.
“We told the girls to keep moving and just play our game. We try to take it to them to force them to have to make the plays,” said Williams.
“Eastern is a good team. We’re still young and still some inexperience on the varsity side. The third set, everyone was talking, moving and working together as a team. We were doing the best that we could. The second and fourth games, we fell apart,” said South Gallia coach Sarah Wright.
Barber and Little collected 14 kills apiece for the Eagles, as Allison Barber secured seven and Brooks had six.
Katlyn Barber also amounted 14 digs, with Allison Barber adding 13 and libero Elayna Bissell notching eight.
“I thought the girls had a great team effort tonight. I thought our back row did their job and tonight was a very good passing night for us. Then when you look at our attacking, our girls were moving and they were on,” said Williams. “We’ve been meshing really well the past couple of games. I think playing together and our energy level is going to be a big difference for us.”
Both Barbers also had two solo blocks, while Brooks had three aces and Katlyn Barber another two — all in game three.
Aaliyah Howell had nine service points to lead the Lady Rebels, as Christine Griffith garnered six kills and eight blocks.
Colburn and Erin Evans added three kills apiece, as Colburn also had three blocks and four digs.
Burnette led in digs and assists with five, and also served up a pair of aces.
The Lady Rebels are off until Monday at Belpre in the TVC-Hocking, while Eastern hosts Trimble for another league match tonight (Thursday, Sept. 29).
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106