VOLLEYBALL: DOWN, BUT NOT OUT

Rockets fight back to win five-set thriller
“As a coach, I remind the girls that ‘hey, we are on a streak for a reason. We got to this point because we are finishing games better. Sometimes at the end of sets, we get tentative and aren’t playing to win. Now, we get toward the end and we are much more aggressive. We are playing to win now and the girls are playing really well.” - Paton-Churdan head coach John Johnson

By BRANDON HURLEY

Sports Editor 

sports@beeherald.com

@BrandonJHurley

Churdan – The situation looked dire for the hometown Paton-Churdan Rockets as they entered the third set against CAM Tuesday night. 

Trailing two sets to none, the girls needed to win three straight sets to come out with the mid-season Rolling Valley Conference victory and they did just that, riping off three consecutive set wins for a 3-2 match victory. 

“We tend to start that way (get down in sets), we don’t come out real strong some times. But we don’t start real bad either. I think the girls like to test the waters and see how it’s going to go,” said Paton-Churdan head coach John Johnson. “I would much rather they get out and go but that’s where we tend to get stuck sometimes. I wouldn’t call it playing down to their level but I feel like they are a little tentative at the start.”  

CAM took the opening two sets by scores of 25-20 and 25-18 before the Rockets finally found their mojo. Johnson had confidence in his girls to make a comeback and made it known in the huddle prior to the third set. 

“I told them to stick with it. We didn’t play bad but we did send a few free balls over to CAM and I thought they did a really good job of setting the ball up,” the coach said. “I kept telling the girls, every time we got the ball set up, we got a good swing at it and got a kill. I was reminding the girls that we couldn’t be sending free balls over the net because it won’t work in our favor at all. “ 

Paton-Churdan ripped off three straight victories, including a 25-20 win in the third set, a tight, back-and-forth 26-24 triumph in the fourth set capped off with a relatively easy 15-6 win in the fifth and final set. 

“I think once we won the third set, the girls realized they could do it and they needed to stick with it,” Johnson said. “And in the fourth set as well, they did a good job of running the offense and they played real aggressive.”

Midway through the final sets the CAM coach became visibly upset with the officiating and Johnson felt it affected the mental state of the Cougars and trickled down to their play. 

“I think it helped us out quite a bit because he was doing a lot of yelling and it took his players out of it a little bit,” Johnson said. 

Sophomores Megan Carey and Jenna Beyers were huge in the comeback victory, each contributing 14 kills and four blocks. 

Carey also served up five aces to go with 15 digs while Beyers collected 10 digs and three aces. 

Mariah Tasler set up her teammates early and often Tuesday, tallying 32 assists. 

As a team, the Rockets collected 34 kills and 59 digs and went 86-0f-105 from the service line for an 81 percent efficiency along with 14 aces.  

Junior Grace Geisler added 11 digs to go with a 12-for-14 state line serving. 

Faith Davis’ 17-of-19 night serving was aided by nine digs. 

“Our girls finally got the ball set up a bit and had some really nice swings,” Johnson said. “Once we won that fourth, which was real close, the girls came out with a lot more energy in the final set. We played really well right from the start. We moved our feet, got some nice aggressive serves and did a really nice job of running our offense.”

Beyers’ 83 kills slot her alone in fifth place in the Rolling Valley. Carey has tallied 73 total kills which puts her eighth in the conference. The sophomore’s 32 aces are second-best behind Coon Rapids-Bayard’s Marissa Oswald, who has tallied a staggering 46 aces. 

Carey leads the conference in blocks with 35 while Beyers is fourth with 118 digs while Carey isn’t far behind in sixth with 106 digs. 

Paton-Churdan as a team has tallied a conference-leading 45 blocks and are second with 535 digs, trailing Glidden-Ralston, with 541 digs. 

The Rockets are also second in the RVC with 109 aces, behind only Coon Rapids-Bayard, who has collected 148 total aces. 

The win moved Paton-Churdan to 5-8 on the year and 2-3 in the Rolling Valley, winners of their last two conference games. Johnson feels the Rockets have found success lately because they have figured out how to close out games. 

“As a coach, I remind the girls that ‘hey, we are on a streak for a reason,’” Johnson said. “We got to this point because we are finishing games better. Sometimes at the end of sets, we get tentative and aren’t playing to win. Now, we get toward the end and we are much more aggressive. We are playing to win now and the girls are playing really well.” 

Glidden-Ralston maintains their stranglehold on the conference lead with a 6-0 record, defeating former unbeaten Coon Rapids-Bayard in three straight sets Tuesday at home. 

Paton-Churdan hits the road Thursday for a matchup at 7 p.m. with West Harrison in Mondamin. The Hawkeyes are 4-14 on the year and 0-5 in the RVC.

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