It was for the best Monday night’s matchup between the Helias Lady Crusaders the Capital City Lady Cavaliers was played under rally scoring and not side out scoring. Otherwise, they both still might have been on the volleyball court into the wee hours of the morning.
In what was a defensive battle, the Lady Crusaders used strong finishes in all three sets to pull away to a 25-22, 25-17, 25-23 victory in Central Missouri Activities Conference play against the Lady Cavaliers at Capital City High School.
“Those are things we’ve worked on and talked about,” Helias coach David Harris said of finishing strong to end a set. “It doesn’t always happen, so it was good to see.
“They never panicked.”
Helias finished the match with a total of 87 digs on the defensive end.
“That’s been one of our keys all year, is our defense,” Harris said. “Tonight, in a three-set match, we averaged almost 30 digs a set, which is incredible.”
Izzy Herrbold, the reigning CMAC defensive player of the year, led the Lady Crusaders with 32 digs.
“It’s really not fair to her, but you expect her to get to everything,” Harris said. “It’s not going to happen, but she has quick reflexes and she reads the hitters really well.
“She’s one of the best defenders we’ve ever had at Helias, and that’s saying something.”
Capital City was just as strong on the defensive end, finishing the night with three players posting 10 or more digs. Addison Jones had a team-high 24 digs, while Katie Daehnick and Sarina Litteken each had 12 digs.
“We both have very strong hitters, and our defensive line has to pick it up whenever it comes to that,” Capital City coach Kelsey Vogler said. “Both of our defensive lines have definite depth, with an ability to read and get under the ball.”
Helias’ defense helped secure a win in the first set.
With the Lady Crusaders ahead 23-22, Sophie Verslues dove to dig the ball on the back row, keeping a volley alive that ended with a kill by Alyssa Muenks.
Libby Gaines followed with a kill on the next point to give Helias a first-set win.
“That’s how we have to play,” Harris said. “And then our hitters keep plugging away and keep trying to find spots. Hopefully we’re going to win the majority of those long rallies.”
Helias kept that momentum going, jumping out to a 12-4 lead in the second set. Capital City battled back and got within a point of Helias at 16-15 with a pair of kills by Aslyn Marshall, but the Lady Crusaders never gave up their lead.
“Volleyball is definitely a game of runs,” Vogler said. “Helias made runs, so we got behind. Then we would make runs to catch up. We just needed to make the runs to push us ahead, instead of catching up.”
Helias ended the second set on a 9-2 run, finishing it off with a service ace by Avery Saucier.
The third set was very much a back-and-forth battle, featuring 18 ties and nine lead changes.
With the score tied at 21, Kari Kemna had a kill for Capital City and a Helias error gave the Lady Cavaliers a 23-21 advantage, two points from their first-ever set win against the Lady Crusaders.
In the previous five meetings between Capital City and Helias, the Lady Cavaliers only scored 20 points in a set once. They were able to do that twice in Monday’s match.
“We all know Helias is a very solid an scrappy team, no matter what their roster looks like,” Vogler said. “We competed with them tonight, and that’s a big hike for us.”
Harris called a timeout to settle down his players.
“I hate calling timeouts, but there are times where you have to do it,” Harris said. “Sometimes, all we say is, ‘Take a deep breath and relax.’”
Claire Carel had a kill to give the serve back to Helias, then Kendal Herzing had a block to tie the score at 23. Hannah Hentges finished the match with back-to-back kills to prevent a fourth set from happening.
Hentges led Helias with 14 kills.
“She had a good night against Hickman the other night and another good night tonight,” Harris said. “She’s been really one of our top consistent hitters all year.”
Carel added 11 kills, while Maddy Kempker and Addy Bryant had 15 and 11 digs, respectively, for Helias. Bryant added 23 assists for a double-double and Saucier was next with 18 assists.
Marshall led Capital City with 12 digs, Jada Anderson had three blocks and Daehnick had a double-double, finishing with 23 assists.
“They lost several seniors last year, like we did,” Harris said of Capital City. “If they continue to improve and get some experience for their younger players -- like we’re trying to do for our younger players -- by the end of the year, they could be a force.”
Helias (10-2-1, 2-0 CMAC) continues conference play Wednesday at home against Battle. The freshman and JV matches start at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity at 6:15 p.m.
Capital City (8-4-2, 0-2 CMAC), which has played nine matches in the past five days, plays today at Owensville. The freshman match begins at 5 p.m., followed by the JV and varsity matches.
“Starting out this strong against tough competition has made our girls’ mentality stay higher, and their physical ability is faster,” Vogler said. “It’s not the physical aspect, it’s the mental aspect where we have to get over that hump.”
In the JV match, Helias defeated Capital City 25-13, 25-14.
For Helias (9-3), Carsyn Ellis had eight kills, Ellie Anderson had 13 assists and served five aces and Liza Boyer finished with 10 digs.
For Capital City (3-4), Kennedie Lutz-Jenkins had five kills, Kacie Kuebler had four assists and Avery Castrop and Taylor Johnson each had four digs.
In the freshman match, Helias defeated Capital City 25-13, 25-21.
For Helias (10-4), Leenah Stegeman had seven kills, Claire Sinnett had 12 assists and served three aces and Hayley Hoffman finished with 27 digs.
For Capital City (5-5-1), Lexi Falter and Aubrie Ross each had five kills, Reese Denich had nine assists and Kaleigh Ward, Falter and Hope Adkins each had eight digs.