Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- Clay City had designs on remaining unbeaten as it hosted Cloverdale on Tuesday night. The Eels' volleyball team was able to deny the Clovers their first road victory of the season by knocking Cloverdale off by a 25-14, 2521, 25-22 decision.
The Clovers proved to be their own worst enemy at times, struggling to find its hitters with passes and making a number of service errors during the match.
"We had trouble passing the ball on and off all night," Cloverdale coach Kathy Moore said. "When you can't get the ball up to your setter, she's not able to set our best hitter, which is Bradanne Toney. It really makes a difference, (Mariah) Oetken had a lot of nice kills tonight, but Clay City is tough. I knew that going into the match. I knew (Clay City coach) Lu Anne (Anderson) would have them ready to play. They are a well-balanced team."
The opening game was close at the midpoint as Clay City edged ahead at 11-10, but from there it was all Eels following a block by Asie Jeffers. She followed with a tip at the net and teammate Brielle Drelick followed with a well-placed tip of her own. Clay City would run off six consecutive points with Meeghan Riggs serving. Drelick added one of her 14 kills and Jeffers added the first of her four successful attacks to give the Eels an 18-13 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Cloverdale got off to a quick start in the second game on a kill from Mariah Oetken, an ace by Bristy Skiles and a kill by Adrianna Patterson for a 6-0 lead. But as was the story all night, Clay City gathered itself and made a rally.
The Clovers were called for a net violation that gave the Eels their first point and a pair of aces by Drelick got Clay City within 10-5, but Cloverdale wasn't going to go quietly.
A pair of service errors and hitting mistakes pushed the Clovers lead to 15-7.
Riggs then stepped to the service line for Clay City and wouldn't relinquish the spot until she had helped hammer out eight straight points for the Eels. A Jeffers block, two hitting mistakes by the Clovers and an ace by Riggs suddenly had Clay City on top.
The run continued as Clay City got another kill from Drelick to take the lead and the Eels finished the game with an 18-6 run for the victory.
The third game was Cloverdale's most complete game and it went to the wire as Bradanne Toney pounded out two of her eight kills and Oetken added two of her team-high 10 kills for a 13-8 lead for the Clovers. Clay City rallied once more with Drelick successfully attacking the Clover defense and Eels' freshman, Emmie Kittle, serving up an ace and adding one of her four kills from the back row. A second ace tied the game at 15-all before Oetken put Cloverdale ahead 16-15 with a kill.
With the game's outcome hanging in the balance, Kittle followed with another attack and then a tip to knot the game at 21-all. Toney put Cloverdale ahead with a kill before Clay City's Riggs tipped the ball to space to re-tie the contest.
With the game tied at 22-all it was a hitting error by Cloverdale that opened the door. Jeffers, who had four kills and seven blocks, finished the game at the net with two stuffs to give the Eels the victory.
"We made our share of mental mistakes and way too many free balls and when those things happen I consider them defensive points," Moore said. "We're not there tonight, the third game was pretty good, but when we get the lead we need to learn how to maintain the lead."
Cloverdale got six kills from Taylor Jones, 16 digs on defense for Toney and 20 assists from Skiles.
Anderson felt that the Eels had a battle on their hands against Cloverdale, which is now 2-2 overall and traveling to West Vigo on Thursday night.
"At times we were flat out, low intensity tonight," Anderson said. "I'm very glad we escaped with a win. Cloverdale is the best team we've played so far on our schedule. They had a better hitter than we've seen, but we were in the right spots, made some good digs. You could tell the girls were a little out of breath after that last game so we're going to go back to work and work on our conditioning, we had to earn more of our points tonight than we have in our first two matches when we had a lot of aces."
Clay City got 26 assists from Emmie Kittle, 16 digs from Callie Dayhuff and seven from Drelick. Riggs posted six digs and five kills for the Eels, who play Saturday at West Vigo.
In the JV game, Cloverdale's team improved to 3-1 this season with a 25-19, 18-25, 15-13 victory.
At Clay City
Next match: Clay City (3-0 overall) travels to West Vigo on Saturday to face the Vikings and Bloomfield.