Times Sports Editor
SWITZ CITY -- Whenever Clay City and Shakamak face off, regardless of sport, it's usually a fight to the end so few were expecting the one-sided sectional volleyball opener between the Eels and Lakers on Thursday night.
However, Clay City is more than happy to advance with a three-game victory over the Lakers, 25-10, 25-21, 25-14 that propels the Eels into a match-up with host White River Valley on Saturday following the 11 a.m. opener between Union and North Central.
"We thought it would be a little bit more of a battle," Clay City coach Lu Anne Anderson said. "Maybe we got into (Shakamak's) heads a little bit after the first game, I don't know, but my girls were pretty fired up to come out and play that first game."
The Eels were in control from the opening serve as Lynsey Higgins ripped off one of her 15 kills to give Clay City a lead they wouldn't relinquish in the opening game.
Higgins added a pair of aces and Brielle Drelick added a kill to push the lead to 7-3 early in the match. Shakamak seemed to have trouble getting into the flow of the game with a number of hitting errors that helped the Eels build on their lead.
Callie Dayhuff provided a kill following one of Shelby Hane's three blocks and Clay City was firmly in control of game one, 18-5. Shakamak was only able to get within 19-9 after a hitting error by Higgins, but Clay City closed strong.
Dayhuff came to the service line and scored an ace sandwiched around a tip and a kill by Higgins and Olivia Schindler served up a closing ace in the win.
"Tonight we were very focused," Anderson said of the Eels. "I think it helped that we were playing Shakamak because the girls get fired up for some unknown reason, maybe because we're rivals, I don't know. Whenever we play them it's a big game. We've got to refocus on WRV now, we missed way too many serves for my liking."
In the second game, Shakamak stayed close for the most part, using a 5-0 run as 5'10 middle hitter, Mikayla Crane, rang up a block and a kill to get the Lakers within 15-14. From there however, the Eels service game was the difference as Higgins served up three straight aces to extend the lead back to 19-14.
Crane got the Lakers within 24-21 after a kill, but Higgins nailed down a kill to end the threat.
Throughout the match, Anderson credited the Eels serves for keeping the Lakers' hitters off balance, especially Crane.
"She's their big gun, there's no surprise there," Anderson said referring to Shakamak's middle hitter, Mikayla Crane. "She got us a few times, she has a really nice swing. She hits the ball super hard, but we were prepared. Overall I thought we did a good job controlling her.
"We really served aggressively and took them out of their system a lot," Anderson continued. "Credit our servers for that, we practiced all week on what zones we wanted to hit. We took way more swings than they did so I thought that kept (Shakamak) on the defense more."
In the final game, Shakamak actually took an early 6-5 lead, but a kill by Hane evened the score and Drelick had a block to give the Eels a 9-7 lead.
Clay City began to take control of the final game at that point with a hitting error by Crane and a kill from Higgins. A net violation call against the Lakers and an ace by Schindler for the Eels gave Clay City a 15-9 advantage.
The Lakers mounted one final rally on some mistakes by the Eels, which Anderson said her team will work on in practice today.
"As the match went on, we had our moments where we had lapses," Anderson said. "We'll have to work on that, but overall I was pretty pleased at how they were able to finish out that match."
The Lakers got within 17-14 before a Lakers' attack went wide and LaKyla Cook served up an ace. Higgins then closed out the match with four straight kills and an Eels' victory.
Shaya Stevenson had 18 assists to go with Schindler's 11 in the victory and Halli Brewer provided two kills.
The Eels advance to face White River Valley in the semi-final with the winner moving on to the championship match at 7 p.m.
Class A White River Valley Sectional