The Clear Lake Lions just needed confidence.
The St. Edmond Gaels delivered a difficult loss to the Lions in five sets 25-18, 25-12, 24-26, 10-25, 15-10, but for a while, no one knew where it was going.
Just when St. Edmond had the first set under control, 24-14, the Lions made them uncomfortable with a late four-point run to make it 24-18. But the Gaels prevailed 25-18.
But that late-set run was not the dawn of a comeback as the Lions completely lost their groove in the second set. The Gaels capitalized on the Lions’ front row errors, creating a gap too wide to climb back from with an eight-point run at a 4-4 tie to make it 12-4. As the attack errors piled up, so did the Gaels’ blocks, scattering the Lions to a quick loss 25-12.
“Our front row’s got to clean it up,” head coach Richie Ellis said. “Our front row didn’t play well those first two sets.”
Frustration fueled the Lions in the third set, starting it with a long rally to knab the first point. A three-point run was fueled by errors and a combined block by junior Macy Mixdorf and senior Kayla Ritter, but then junior Maranda Harrison and sophomore Sara Faber started swinging, hard.
After struggling with attack errors in the second set, Faber found her rhythm at the net with five kills in the third. Harrison was just getting started with three. Behind the pair, the team secured six-point and five-point leads, but also climbed back from a late four-point deficit 19-15. Side outs piled up for the Gaels and Mixdorf added a kill to make it 19-19. Faber slammed two consecutive kills to gain a 21-19 lead. Faber tipped and slammed for a 24-24 tie, then a quick out of middle by junior Mikayla Vanderploeg made it 25-24.
The final point of the set was lucky, though, as the ball rebounded off Gaels junior Hannah Schaeffer’s foot when she ran to the sideline to call a serve out, 26-24.
Behind Harrison, the Lions sought revenge in the fourth set. Harrison nailed six kills, including three to grab an early 8-1 lead over the Gaels. St. Edmond’s timeout brought no answers, as they fell to behind to an 18-5 deficit from careless mistakes and a combined four kills by Faber and Mixdorf at the net.
Harrison rotated to front late in the set, slamming three more kills, including one out of the middle blocker position, for a 25-10 victory.
“I just think she got some confidence going those first couple balls in,” Ellis said. “She rebounded well off of her mistakes, she hit a couple balls out of bounds a couple times and then really rebounded and got some good kills down the stretch.”
The Lions’ fan base stood up before the fifth set, filling the gym with shouts and claps of, “Let’s go Lions!” The Gaels’ junior varsity team arose, screaming in response.
The teams rallied back and forth, tying the set seven times before the Gaels took a definite lead. Errors became the downfall of the Lions as the final pass shanked off the arms of senior Chloe Mueller into the stands for a final score 15-10.
“Mentally, we made a breakthrough tonight,” Ellis said. “We were down 2-0 and that’s something that this team has really been struggling with these past couple of years and I feel that tonight