BRITT | Head coach Chris Martin believes his West Hancock Eagles are improving each match, even if they don’t win.

“I thought we really played good,” Martin said. “They’re doing just what I want them to do, this team had a miserable season last year, so there’s a lot to teach them.”

The West Hancock Eagles weren’t going down without a fight on Tuesday, but the Newman Catholic Knights ultimately came out on top in four sets 25-17, 25-20, 22-25, 25-21.

The two teams tied four times early in the first set, but the Knights would pull away for a 19-13 lead behind an aggressive serve game. Senior Shelby Johnson, sophomore Lily Castle, senior Peyton Olson and senior Maria Determan, shared sets averaging one or more kills in the first set. The Eagles would only manage to close the gap to a four-point deficit 21-17 before falling 25-17.

The Eagles would stay within striking distance of the Knights in the second set behind sophomore Emily Ryerson’s blocking, 13-12. The Knights pulled away for a 19-14 lead behind a string of missed serves and attack errors on the Eagles’ side. Despite a late comeback by the Eagles, the Knights came out on top, 25-20.

West Hancock had a 7-2 lead over Newman Catholic in the third set. Seniors Brigid Smith and Sydney Burgardt started to shake things up at the net with trick-plays on the front. Smith added four kills and Burgardt added three.

“We changed some things because I’m calling plays now for them,” Martin said. “Just like football coaches when they make plays, so when our outsides go in, they take plays in. I took the pressure off my setters to make calls.”

Sophomores Emily Ryerson and Amanda Chizek drew a wall up front, each racking up eight and seven blocks respectively on the night. The Eagles would lose the lead at 15-14, but came back after a 17-17 tie for a 25-22 win.

Smith, Ryerson and Burgardt continued to dominate on the Eagles’ side in the fifth set. Smith and Burgardt each had eight kills while Ryerson had three. But, in a rallied battle of the kills and aces, the Knights came out on top in the final set 25-21.

Martin believes there will be more progress on offense once the girls master their hitting technique.

“They worry about their hitting, so they put the balls out a lot,” Martin said. “I go into practice and I tell them, ‘Don’t worry about your hitting.’ and we’ll use tennis balls a lot to practice snapping the wrist. They’ve come on strong and we’re going to be stronger, we have a really tough tournament on Saturday, so we’ll get to see how good we are.”

​Reach sports reporter Leah Vann at 641-421-0526.

Follow her on twitter at @GG_LeahVann

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