Facing Class A's sixth-ranked team, the Shakamak Lakers, doesn't seem like a recipe for getting back on track, but the Clay City Eels might disagree after their Monday evening matchup.
Clay City looked like the same team that had suffered through some recent losses that had dropped them to 8-8 on the season during the match's first game, a 15-25 loss.
But the Eels rebounded with some of their best play of the year during the second game and in spots throughout, despite a 15-25, 25-20, 17-25, 23-25 loss.
"We're not scared to see (Shakamak) in the sectional," commented coach Trisha Hall following the match. "We played with more intensity and with more heart tonight."
That much was evident in the second game in which the Eels found the momentum they were lacking in the first game loss.
The Eels came out by scoring five of the game's first six points, getting a kill from Angie Camp and a kill and a block from freshman Lynsey Higgens to take a 5-2 lead. The Eels pushed that lead out to 13-7 midway through the game following another block from Higgens.
"Lynsey played great tonight," mentioned Hall. "We really missed that extra option and it's good to know that she'll be that option for another three years," Hall joked.
Camp was the lynchpin that helped the Eels avoid a letdown as Shakamak went back to their senior hitter, Chelsea Hudson.
After seven kills in the first game win, Hudson led the Lakers on a charge back to within 16-14. Several Clay City unforced errors also played a role in the 7-2 Shakamak run.
But the Eels went to their own senior option as Camp halted the run with a tip and then added four late kills and Hanna Moore contributed one of her own as Clay City went up 20-15.
The Eels finished off the resurgent run on a kill from Higgens and Kelly McCullough to take a 25-20 victory.
As good teams tend to do, Shakamak came right back and snatched the momentum back following a 4-4 tie in the third game. The Lakers got five consecutive kills, three from Hudson and one each from Heather Gilbert and Jessica Gilbert to take a 13-4 lead before Higgens stopped the march with a key block.
Instead of folding, the Eels struck back with back-to-back aces from McCullough as well as one from Camp and a kill from Vansickle to get within 19-15.
Shakamak however followed with a service ace and two kills from Jessica Gilbert to finish the game on a 6-2 run for the win.
"When you face better teams, you can't afford to get down four or five points. But as a team we looked a lot better and our attitudes were better too," said Hall.
The fourth game was a battle of big runs as Clay City led early on 10-6 after service aces from McCullough. But they suffered another letdown that allowed the Lakers to put together a 7-1 push to take a 13-11 advantage.
Moore took to the service line for the Knights and teamed with Higgens to knot the score on an ace and two kills by the Eels' freshman.
The game remained tight to the wire following a block by Moore got the Eels within 21-20 and a block by Megan Vansickle tied the score. But a kill from Hudson and a hitting error from Vansickle gave Shakamak a lead they would not relinquish.
The Lakers' own hitting error got the Eels within a match point at 24-23, but a potential game-tying kill from Higgens went long.
"I thought everyone had a good game tonight," said Hall. "Emily Reed was moving well and she adjusted to (Shakamak's) hitters well which is exactly what we need at the libero spot. She did a great job tonight."
Those defensive adjustments following Shakamak's dominant hitting performance in the first game is what gives the Eels confidence leading up to today's sectional draw.
"We got a lot of touches at the net and that's what you have to do to slow the ball down," said Hall.
The Lakers won the JV contest 25-24, 25-20 despite 12 points from Olivia Schindler along with two kills and four assists. KyAnn Roe added three kills and four points and Megan Griffith chipped in with four points.
The Eels will travel to Eastern this evening for a match at 6 p.m.
At Clay City
Next Game: Clay City (8-9 overall) travels to Eastern at 6 p.m. tonight.