BLOOMINGTON — The University High School volleyball team nearly squandered an eight-point lead in its first game Thursday against rival Central Catholic.
Then the Pioneers dropped three straight points to lose the second game after serving for match. A strong start to the final game became crucial — and that’s just what U High got.
Charging out to a 12-point advantage, the Pioneers seized control to finish off a 25-22, 25-27, 25-13 victory over the host Saints to remain unbeaten in 10 Corn Belt Conference matches.
“They hit our holes and we didn’t cover as well as we should have (in the second game),” said U High coach Karen Valouche. “I thought the third game we came back and took the momentum, took charge of the match.”
Jasmine McDowell totaled 14 kills and Logan Walling added 13 for the Pioneers (19-6 overall), who also got 37 assists from Bailey Nichol and 17 digs from Jade Mortimer.
Danielle Davis filled the stat sheet with seven kills, 13 digs and two aces for Central (18-6, 8-3), with Danielle Moore notching eight kills and Caroline Holt recording three blocks and 22 assists.
“Overall I thought we played well tonight. The third game probably could have gone a little better; we made a lot of mental mistakes. But they’re a good club,” said first-year Saints coach JR Banister.
The Pioneers built a 22-14 lead in the first game only to see Central (18-6, 8-3) eight of the next nine points before a Walling block finished the game. U High opened a 9-4 lead in the second but the Saints surged to claim an 18-15 advantage on a smash by Davis.
The teams alternated lead changes until the Saints survived a match point chance when Megan O’Donnell blocked a Walling attack. Moore then delivered two unreturned serves to force the third game.
“It’s always a battle every time we play. We try to come in prepared and change a little bit and tweak our game as we go through,” said Valouche. “The kids fought hard and came back.”
After Central’s first serve of the third game found the net, the Pioneers never relinquished the lead.
“Our serving’s been good as far as bringing us back into stuff,” said Banister. “But when we started out the third game and missed the serve, that tends to start you off on the wrong foot.”