Carthage has no seniors on its volleyball roster. Conventional wisdom says they should be a year or two away from competing in the volleyball-crazed COC Large or for a district championship.
The Lady Tigers don’t believe in conventional wisdom…
For the second time this season, Carthage topped Carl Junction, sweeping the Lady Bulldogs in COC action 28-26, 28-26 Thursday at Carl Junction High School.
“We showed great character tonight, especially for a team with no seniors,” said Carthage coach Tony Allmoslecher. “Carl Junction is such a talented team with their big hitters and a great setter, but I’m just proud of the way our girls didn’t give up and kept fighting. Going overtime in both games, you can’t ask for a better way to build character in your team.”
While just two sets were played, both were played about as competitively as possible. Both sets were seesaw battles that saw 20-20 ties, which is where things got interesting.
In the first set, Carthage took a 24-21 lead, only to see CJ storm back to tie the game at 25.
The second set was the same back-and-forth battle, with Carl Junction taking a 26-25 lead on a monster kill by Central Arkansas commit Lexi Miller.
In both instances, the youthful Lady Tigers had enough resiliency – and sophomore Alexa Boyle – to overcome the situation.
Boyle finished with a team-high 13 kills and eight digs, with the most important kill coming on a tip over the top of a huge CJ block to give Carthage a 27-26 lead in the second set. The 5-foot-8 sophomore has had double-digit kills in seven of her last 10 games.
“She’s good and she just grows every day,” said Allmoslecher. “That tip, last year we couldn’t get her to think like that, and now she’s putting it all together and seeing the floor. We’re blessed to have her and we get her for two more years after this.”
Junior Gracie Fagg handed out 27 assists. Classmate Jillian Brunnert recorded 16 digs. Miller and Grace Southern each finished with nine kills for Carl Junction. Southern also finished with 10 digs. Oral Roberts commit Sylvia Lawson had 20 assists.
The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for Carl Junction. With two losses in COC play with Willard and Nixa still remaining, and a pair of district losses to a Class 4 – District 12 foe in Carthage, CJ will have some things to correct between now mid-October.
“They’re a good ball control team and they’re very good defensively; they were diggin’ up stuff that usually gets down but it just didn’t happen,” said Carl Junction coach Cheryl Sharples. “Defensively they outplayed us and we’ve got to make some plays to hang at that level. You hope a loss like this motivates your kids to want to get better every day and focus in practice on what we’re doing and where we want to go.”
Carthage is now likely the top seed in a district that will host Sectionals/Quarterfinals. Entering the 2017 season it seemed like on paper this team would be too young to win a district championship. But, with a pair of wins over the preseason favorite, the Lady Tigers could again find itself playing postseason volleyball if they continue to grow.
But, to do so they’ll have to beat Carl Junction for a third time, with the district tournament being played in CJ.
“They know they can beat us; they’ve done it this season,” said Allmoslecher. “We’ve been fortunate enough to beat them too. We both know what to expect out of each other. I’m just hoping our girls will never be intimidated and know that if we play our best that we’re good enough to compete. I love competing against Chery’s team because you know they’re going to be ready to play.”