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Scrappy Squires sweep past Eagles

Volleyball: Manchester’s Kendra Kline (center) sets the ball to a teammate during the second set of Tuesday’s game against Columbia City.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

NORTH MANCHESTER - It doesn’t take much more than a glance at the Manchester volleyball team lacks size, a fact head coach Melissa West readily admits. But as the season nears the midway point, the Squires are adapting to a scrappy style that has become the identity of their team.

On Tuesday, Manchester earned its first straight-set win in a five-set match of the season, sweeping Columbia City by a final of 27-25, 25-23, 25-19. 

“I’m pleased overall,” West said. “We have a team that likes to dig holes. I liked the resiliency of them. They were pretty gritty tonight, especially that first set. I’m really pleased with that and I think that set the tone for the next two (sets) because when you’re up and end up losing like that, it’s hard to bounce back from.”

As evidenced by both the score and West’s comments, it wasn’t always easy even if it was a straight-set win on the night.

The opening set saw the guest Eagles score the first four points of the game. While Manchester responded to pull within one at 5-4, they would never lead as Columbia City kept the hosts at bay.

The Eagles looked set to nab a relatively comfortable win in the opening set after taking a 24-20 lead following a kill from Makenna Cook but only then did the excitement begin.

Manchester reeled off the next three points to force an Eagle timeout. Columbia City continued to capitulate, sending a kill attempt into the net to tie the game at 24-24. While the visitors took a one-point lead and reached set point for the fifth point of the night on the next rally, Manchester used a block from Mackenzie Day to tie the game before taking the final two points for a 27-25 victory.

“We are not blessed with very much height or girls that can jump out of the gym so our kill numbers are not going to be through the roof,” West said. “We’ve talked about that since the very beginning of the season that we’re going to have to be smart with the ball at the net. Clearly the first set we were not. We had at least 10 hitting errors which, right there, that’s almost half their points.

“We talked about our defense being what’s going to make the difference for us. It’s a scrappy group of girls that are quick and, so, that helped tonight for sure.”

From there, it became much more comfortable for the Squires. The second set was a role reversal with Manchester jumping out to an early lead and holding onto the advantage throughout as the Eagles continued throwing points away. Facing set point at 24-20, it was the Squires turn to let a late lead slip away as Columbia City scored three consecutive points to force a timeout from the hosts.

Andrea Kahn would ensure the win with a kill and send the Squires to within a set of capturing the win.

The third set saw Columbia City start out strong with an early 9-7 lead. But as they would do much of the night, the Eagles began handing points to the Squires, kick-starting a set-changing run. After consecutive kills from the guests sailed out of bounds, a kill from Kahn and a block from Day gave Manchester an 11-9 lead. Two more unforced errors from the guests capped off a 6-0 run and gave Manchester a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Back-to-back aces from Lydia Greer forced Columbia City’s second timeout of the set but the Squires wouldn’t slow as Kyrsten Eakright and Day finished off the night with back-to-back kills.

After the woeful start offensively from the Squires, West’s crew finished with just 22 hitting errors on the night. More impressively, the Squires finished with just 12 combined digging or serve receive errors and only seven serve errors offensively.

“We talk regularly about when we go back to serve, we have to put the ball in play,” West said. “That’s one of the easiest ways for the other team to score is not to do a single thing if you hit it into the net or wail it out of bounds. We talk about making sure we’re making smart plays at the net and keeping our errors down. I thought we did a nice job after that first set of doing better with that.”

Kahn had seven kills on the evening while Aubree Lambert and Day had six kills apiece. Kendra Kline had 15 assists and Greer tallied four aces. Defensively, Catherine Ondrla had 14 digs, Ali Sites had 11 and Greer 10 in the win.

The Squires improve to 6-5 with the win and will host Whitko on Thursday.