By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
A year ago the Nevada volleyball team won the inaugural Big 8 West Division title and the Tigers’ quest for a second one got off to a strong start Thursday in Mt. Vernon.
Nevada, 25-8 last year and playing in its season opener, fended off the Mountaineers in two sets, 25-23, 25-23 for the road win.
“All three teams got the win tonight,” Nevada coach Ashley Thoreson said. “It was a long drive, first match of the season so it’s always hard to tell how we’ll show up after sitting on the bus that long. We had some young girls playing for us on varsity so I knew there’d be some nerves there but I also have seven seniors so I did expect some leadership and for us to be able to control the match.”
For most of the night the Tigers did just that.
Kills by senior Julia Cassidy and junior Laney Coons helped Nevada to an early six-point advantage in the first set.
Mt. Vernon rallied to tie it at 13 and 14 before briefly leading by a point, but an ace from senior Stacy Pennington put the Tigers back ahead.
A tip from freshman Trinity Gayman made it 20-17.
The Mountaineers tied it again late but Nevada won three of the final four points to take the set.
The Tigers built another six-point lead midway through the second set, 17-11, and withstood another Mt. Vernon rally.
A kill by Mt. Vernon sophomore Hailey Eldridge and a block from sophomore Cameryn Cassity pulled the Mountaineers within two at 18-16, and a kill by senior Raegan Prescott kept them close at 22-20.
Mt. Vernon closed to 24-23, but Nevada senior Lindley Ferry ended the match with a block.
Every time the Mountaineers tried to make a run, the Tigers put a stop to it.
Mt. Vernon scored four-straight points just once in the first set, and three-straight points just twice. It was the same story in the second set, when the Mountaineers scored three-straight points on just two occasions.
“We didn’t give them too many long runs,” Thoreson said. “I think we were aggressive at the net. We tried to use their right side of the court to get them out of system. They just had the one setter so anytime we can make her take that first ball it kind of got them out of system and helped our side to get a better pass to swing aggressively.”
The Tigers’ winning effort wasn’t without its faults. Thoreson said the defense wasn’t as “scrappy” as she expected it to be, especially in the middle. Offensively she said the team used the outsides a lot and was too predictable.
“We’ll definitely focus on that at practice the next couple days to try and mix it up a little bit and make sure we get our middles the ball,” she said.
Cassidy led the team with six kills, senior Lindy Smith had 12 assists, senior Lani Coonrod had two aces and 10 digs and Pennington had five kills and nine digs.
The Tigers return to action on Sept. 10 at the Anderson County Triangular with Fort Scott.
Mt. Vernon will play at the Branson Invitational on Saturday.