Volleyball: Mendota def. PHS 26-24, 25-22
PRINCETON — After a strong win over conference rival Hall last week, the Princeton Tigresses were ready to show their home crowd the fruits of their recent improvements.
Then the Mendota Spikers came to Prouty Gym to show how much the Tigresses still have to learn, winning 26-24, 25-22 over PHS Monday night.
“It was an ugly game,” PHS coach Andy Puck said. “They (Mendota) definitely exposed our weaknesses. The better team won, that’s all there is to it.”
However, the evening had a more promising start for the Tigresses, getting out to a 7-1 lead in the first set before Mendota coach John Holzman felt the need for a timeout.
“Our hitting was off a little bit, we were slow on defense,” Holzman said. “Our blocks weren’t pushing off, and we’re still struggling with finishing. But Princeton, tough team. They’ve got some good hitters out there, scrappy as all heck.”
Among the “scrappers” for PHS were points leader Olivia Chastain (7), Kaylee Hammerich leading in kills (9), Corrine Peterson in digs (15), and Katie Bates in assists (17).
Whatever Holzman said to his squad in that time, it sparked them back in the game though the Tigresses maintained the lead until several miscues allowed Mendota to gain a 16-14 advantage after a 5-0 run. Then it was Puck’s turn to call a timeout to reset his players.
“Trying to get more out of our offense and blocking their outside hitters,” Puck said. “One problem was our setter (Bates) trying to block out there. She’s a freshman and not very tall, so we knew that was going to happen, but we have to get more from our two opposites out there.”
The Tigresses won the next point but lost the next four, due in part to Mendota’s Myah Boelk’s pounding of the ball over the net (leading the Spikers in kills with 8) in response of her coach’s calls of “no tipping!” from across the court.
“I tell the girls to hit the ball. I don’t like to tip, because then you’re playing their game and you’re giving them a free ball if they’re a good defensive team,” Holzman said. “We have girls in the back row that can send it from one side to the other and put the ball down, and that’s what we need to to.”
“Our girls can hit, and I’d rather lose on a hard spike than a tip.”
Mendota’s Ella Massey’s role as setter (16 assists) was vital in making many of the kills happen.
“She did good,” Holzman said. “I pick on her a lot, and it’s taken a while, but she’s learning. The first game against St. Bede (a 2-1 loss) she was in tears, now it’s like, ‘Yeah, right, Coach’, and she listens.”
The Tigresses stayed within reach to tie the game at 23-23 and 24-24, but Mendota prevailed to capture the first set 26-24.
The second set was literally anybody’s game, a much tighter affair with neither team getting more than two points at a time, Though the Spikers kept the lead throughout. It seemed like whoever had fewer errors would have the upper hand.
“We put the ball down better in the second game,” Holzman said. “We had less serving errors, and we’re not a team to let ourselves dig a hole we can’t get out of.”
The Tigresses stayed in to the end, but errors came back to haunt them and allow Mendota to take advantage and a 25-22 win.
“They put all the pressure on us,” Puck said. “They just beat us.”
Notes:Princeton won the freshmen match 2-1 while Mendota won the sophomore contest 2-0. ... PHS (4-5, 1-1) went back to action Tuesday at Kewanee, while Mendota (6-2) played their first conference match, hosting Rockford Christian.... The Tigresses return home Thursday to face Erie-Prophetstown.