Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- As the volleyball regular season nears an end, the Clay City Eels earned some valuable confidence by defeating the defending sectional champions on Monday night.
Clay City knocked off the Shakamak Lakers in five games, 19-25, 25-20, 27-25, 12-25, 15-12.
We knew it was going to be tough, we'd watched (Shakamak) play and kind of knew what to expect," coach Cindy Gerber said. "We knew that we were going to have to hustle and that they had seen our weaknesses. So we tried not to show those weaknesses on the floor, but sometimes we did, but we fought back, it was a close game. We found a little more drive when we needed it."
The win was far from easy as the Eels looked sluggish at times, never getting into sync during the first game loss as Lakers' sophomore, Mikayla Crane pounded out four kills. Shakamak broke open a 14-12 advantage by scoring six of the next eight points for a 20-14 lead and went on to win by six points.
The Lakers led 7-5 early in the game, but Clay City tied the game and took the lead as Shelby Hane served up four straight points, including an ace. The Eels led 11-10 when Courtney Dayhuff went to the service line and served out an ace. The Lakers made several hitting errors in a streak that forced a timeout with the Eels leading 14-10. The Lakers' Holli Moore sent a shot wide and the Eels lead grew to 17-10. From there, Brielle Drelick blasted a kill to continue the momentum and Lynsey Higgins was able to halt a small Lakers' run by sending a shot through a Shakamak block for a 20-13 Eels' lead. Higgins continued to build the advantage with a kill to break the Lakers' serve and she followed with an ace and a block. Kelly McCullough forced game-point with a block as Clay City tied the match at a game apiece.
Higgins and Drelick were powerful for the Eels on the attack.
Higgins had 10 kills and eight blocks to go with four digs and four points while Drelick had eight kills and two blocks.
The Eels kept the momentum into game three as McCullough served out two aces and Drelick added a kill in a 6-0 Eels' run to start the game. Clay City led 9-3 before Shakamak rallied with a 5-0 run to get back to 11-9. The match remained tight at 15-12 before an ace by McCullough and a kill by Higgins pushed the gap to 17-12 and forced a Lakers' timeout.
The Eels built the lead to 24-18 after a kill by Callie Dayhuff, but the Lakers had a rally in them.
A tip by Moore returned the serve to Stacey Durham and the Lakers ran off six consecutive points for a 25-24 lead before an errant serve tied the score at 25-all. Dayhuff made sure that the Eels weren't going to lose the game by serving out an ace and McCullough finished the game with a kill.
McCullough was a force throughout much of the game as she passed out 15 assists to go with eight kills, five blocks, three aces and six points.
The Lakers were the aggressor in the fourth-game as Clay City stood one game away from the match victory, but Shakamak dominated, building a 14-6 lead as Eels' mistakes, coupled with a resurgent Laker offense evened the match with a 25-12 win to force game five.
The intensity was much higher for the Eels in the final game as an early kill by Drelick energized the Eels. A block by Dayhuff and two service aces by Higgins gave the Eels a 7-3 lead. Shakamak benefited from some Clay City hitting errors to bounce back and tie the match at 10-apiece. The Lakers capped an 8-3 run by Shakamak to take a 12-10 lead before a hitting error got the Eels to within 12-11.
With the race to 15 points heating up, Moore sent an attack wide and the Eels made a nice defensive dig to keep a ball alive for Shelby Hane to kill as Clay City regained the advantage at 13-12. From there, McCullough posted a block and Moore sent a shot wide on the next point to give the Eels the win.
Afterwards, Gerber was pleased with how her team rebounded in the final game.
"They wanted it and it showed," Gerber said of the Eels. "They were talking, hustling and I'm proud of them because they didn't put their heads down. They picked themselves up and played a lot better. I think a lot of times we get down and have trouble getting back up. (Brielle Drelick and Kelly McCullough) played more consistent (in the final game), which really helped."
Dayhuff had nine digs, nine points and four kills for Clay City with Hane adding five digs, five points, a kill and two blocks. LaKyla Cook provided 10 digs, five points and two kills and Olivia Schindler passed out 13 assists and added three points. Both Meeghan Riggs and Chloe Kittle had a dig as Clay City improved to 12-6 in varsity matches.
The Eels were also winners in the JV match, winning 25-12, 25-13 as Kittle had seven kills and four digs and Halli Brewer added four points and two aces. Shaya Stevenson posted eight points, 12 assists and two aces and Asie Jeffers provided five kills and two aces. Riggs had six points, three kills and four digs with Madison Jackson adding two digs and Mackenzie McKittrick had four points and two digs. Kayla Sinders added a dig as the JV improved to 11-5.
The Eels compete Saturday at the Cascade Invite.
At Clay City