The Helias Lady Crusaders are looking to get in a rhythm on the volleyball court.
Helias opened the season with a six-match tournament, then had a week off before playing two more matches, followed by another four off days until they played again.
But the pace will pick up quickly.
"All that practice is good, but we need playing time against opponents other than ourselves," Helias coach David Harris said after Monday's 25-18, 25-7, 25-19 win against the Capital City Lady Cavaliers at Capital City High School.
"Nothing beats actual game time," he added.
There wasn't much rust for Helias to knock off in the early going. The Lady Crusaders got kills from Grace Verslues, Jacie Buschjost and Chapel Dobbs in the first six points to build a 5-1 lead.
"I was glad to see the way we came out," Harris said. "I'd still like to see us more focused, but we're working on that."
Helias led 22-10 late in the first set, but Capital City rallied, taking advantage of a few Lady Crusader errors. Kiara Strayhorn added a kill and Reagan Carel served an ace to make it 23-16. Ruby Sprenger added a kill to close the gap to six, but Helias finished the set on the next point with a kill by Josie Morasch.
"We started out a little slow, but we fought back," Capital City coach Kelsey Vogler said. "We really competed in that first set."
The second set was more of a runaway for Helias.
With the Lady Crusaders leading 9-4, Sydney Mingucci got a kill to give the serve back to Helias. Verslues then recorded 11 straight service points — including four aces — to stretch the lead to 21-4.
"She's always been a really good server," Harris said of Verslues. "I started coaching several of these girls when they were in the fifth grade, and she has always served well. She just gets a little bit better every year."
Capital City had a handful of solid offensive possessions during the Helias run, but each time, the Lady Crusaders answered with a stellar defensive effort to keep the rally going.
"I thought the girls handled their frustrations very well tonight," Vogler said. "That's something we discussed after the Hickman Tournament, when we got a little frustrated this past weekend."
Helias used the third set to give its bench an opportunity for significant playing time.
"They got into the flow of it," Harris said.
Capital City got back-to-back kills from Grace Marshall and Sprenger, then a Helias set error gave the Lady Crusaders their first lead of the night at 5-4 in the third set.
Strayhorn followed with another kill, but Helias answered with a 5-0 run and never trailed again.
Strayhorn finished with a team-high nine kills for Capital City, along with five blocks.
"She is lucky to have the vertical leap she has, it helps put us above the other team a lot," Vogler said.
Marshall and Ava Meinhardt each added four kills, while Marshall had 10 assists and Carel followed with seven assists. Carel and Julia Kollmeyer tallied 15 and 12 digs, respectively.
"We're a very well-rounded team," Vogler said. "Whenever we got out, we can trust to set all six players, including our setters, on the front row or back row. We can set anybody and expect them to put the ball in play."
Helias was led by Dobbs, who had five of her match-high 13 kills in the first set.
"That was nice to see," Harris said. "The last couple matches, she's been struggling a little bit with having some hitting errors. Tonight, her and Jacie both did a really good job of getting off the net and waiting on the set, being explosive in their approach."
Buschjost added six kills, while Annica Luebbering finished with 16 digs and eight assists. Landrey VanOverschelde and Verslues added 13 and eight assists, respectively, while Mingucci had a team-high four blocks.
Helias (7-2-1, 2-0 CMAC) will be back on the road today at Pleasant Hill.
Capital City (2-6-3, 0-2 CMAC) will play Thursday at Warrensburg.
In Monday's JV match, Helias defeated Capital City 25-10, 25-22.
Libby Gaines led the Lady Crusaders (5-3-1) with six kills, while Addy Bryant and Avery Saucier each had eight assists. Izzy Herrbold finished with 14 digs and three aces.
For Capital City (4-2), Aslyn Marshall had four kills and six blocks, while Addison Jones added four kills, six assists and 12 digs. Leah Warren also tallied 12 digs.
Helias also won the freshman match 25-5, 25-12, improving to 6-3.
Kendal Herzing tallied five kills for the Lady Crusaders, while Eme Mason had eight assists and Lexie Bruns finished with six assists and five aces. Reese Herigon added a team-high 16 digs.