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Errors prove costly for Knights against Braves

CHASE: Southwood’s Allison Steele chases down a ball during the second set of Tuesday’s match-up with Maconaquah.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

The Maconaquah volleyball has become very familiar with road Three Rivers Conference (TRC) games early in the season. Tuesday’s battle at Southwood was the third road conference battle for the Braves in the first four contests.

Fortunately for head coach Jessica Metcalf, her side has also become increasingly familiar with winning those road battles.

While shaky at times, Maconaquah overcame spells of unforced errors to handle a young Southwood side in straight sets, 25-15, 25-21, 25-21.

“The majority of our conference games are going to be on the road,” Metcalf said. “We can’t be intimidated by walking into the gym. We come in, we practice, we know we’re going on the road and we know what our plan is initially and executing it then is what we want to do.”

Meanwhile, Tom Finicle, Southwood’s head coach, shouldered the blame for the loss with Tuesday’s result dropping the Knights to 3-11 overall and 1-2 in the TRC.

“We’re not very well coached,” Finicle said. “If we were better coached, we’d do better things. Right now, we must not be very well coached because we’re still making too many mistakes. We threw away 27 hitting errors. You can’t make that kind of number of mistakes against anybody and hope to have success. So, it’s on me. It’s still on me. I have to find a way to make us handle the ball better. I have to find a way for us to have a little more confidence. I have to find a way to make sure we play more up-tempo than we play right.”

Southwood hardly looked threatening on the night. The Braves used runs of three, five and six unanswered points in the first set to cruise comfortably to a 25-15 win.

While Southwood looked more competitive in the second set, an early 9-1 run in the set provided the Braves enough distance to lead 21-14 late. A reoccurring trend on the night would see the Knights rally late, closing the gap to 24-21 before a kill from Emily Bowyer gave the Braves the second set.

The third set played out in nearly identical fashion to the second as a 9-3 spurt in the middle of the frame turned a 12-9 lead into a 21-12 advantage for Maconaquah. Much like the second set, though, Southwood responded.

Looking something like the Knight teams that were once a dominant force not only in the conference but the state, the Knights turned up the tempo in a blink of an eye as the Braves lead dwindled all the way down to 22-21 after a kill from Natalie Haycraft.

“That was probably the stretch right there that we played the best, obviously,” Finicle said. “We made some noise and stayed in the hunt. That’s got to be more consistent and that’s something I can’t find the key to right now. I can’t find the answer to make sure we’re more consistent with the ball.”

Lilly Maple would give the Braves the serve back with a kill before setting up match point with an ace. Southwood’s last gasp would see one last error from the hosts to close the contest as the Braves won the final set 25-21.

“We kind of came in thinking we needed to control the tempo of the game and if we can control the tempo then we kind of knew that was going to go to our favor,” Metcalf said. “Our big thing is (we have to) control what we can our side of the net and let the other team, tonight it happened to be Southwood, make their own mistakes. (Southwood head coach Tom Finicle) and I talked about that before the game that his team is kind of making some service errors, my team has been making some service errors so it was going to be a battle of who was going to make fewer errors and thankfully we came out on top.”

Bowyer led the Braves with 13 kills while Olivia Smith added eight. Averi Miller recorded 26 assists on the night.

Smith finished with a pair of blocks to lead the Maconaquah defense while Alice Miller recorded 21 assists with Bowyer adding 15.

For Southwood, Erin McGouldrick and Alissa Pershing tied for team-high in kills with eight apiece. No other Knight had more than two. Ashley Smith and Allison Steele shared the setting duties with the former recording eight assists and the latter six.

Maggie Ball had two blocks on the night while Smith finished with 13 digs. Pershing added seven and Marissa Metzger six.

Leaning heavily on freshman and sophomores this season, Finicle could easily rely on the excuse of inexperience this season. However, with half the season in the books, the Knight coach expected the growing pains and unforced errors to have been in the past at this point in the year.

“I don’t know that you can call them rookie mistakes anymore,” he said. “You’re halfway into the hunt. At this juncture, you have to understand you can’t be careless with the ball. I want them to maintain being aggressive but you can’t be careless and we’re careless and not very aggressive with it and I think that’s detrimental to our success right now.”