Despite a loss, the West Hancock Eagles are looking up.
On Thursday night, the Eagles fell to the Lake Mills Bulldogs in three straight sets 25-9, 25-15, 25-12.
The first set wasn’t close. After a 2-2 tie, the West Hancock crowd was on its feet, roaring at the warm-up rallies between the two teams. But the Bulldogs went on an 11-point run before the Eagles scored again, 13-3.
There were some glimmers of hope — a long rally ensued at 18-6, which ended with a missed connection by junior Natalie Lemmon at outside. At 22-8, the Eagles surprised the crowd running a trick play to tally their final score at 9. Middle blocker senior Sydney Burgardt attacked the net at full swing, only for senior Brigid Smith to slide around the left for a kill. Despite the 25-9 loss, the Eagles had their confidence lifted.
“I started my seniors tonight, and I was trying to get a comfort level with what I was doing,” head coach Chris Martin said. “We’re running plays and we made some mistakes and I told them, ‘It’s not Lake Mills beating us, it’s you beating yourselves.’”
The second set was closer. Burgardt strengthened her game at the net, adding a kill to bring the score to a 9-5 deficit. The momentum set in, and the Eagles would force mistakes on the other side of the net to tally the score 13-13. The Eagles fell to a 17-14 deficit, but they’d get creative once again. Junior Natalie Lemmon sprinted from left to right, rounding middle blocker senior Kaitlyn Ohrt for a slide-kill at the net for a 17-15 score.
But that’s as close as it would get, as the Eagles fell in the second set 25-15.
“We were a little relaxed in the second set and that’s got to get better,” Lake Mills head coach Jim Boehmer said. “But I also think that this was a much improved West Hancock volleyball team.”
The Bulldogs came back with a vengeance in the third set, scoring eight points before the Eagles scored their first point with a kill by Smith at outside. Burgardt notched another kill at 19-7 and a block to make it 20-10. Smith also stayed aggressive, managing another slide-kill at 24-12, but it was too late to catch up.
“We did good things, we did bad things,” Martin said. “But we did a lot of good things and although the score may not indicate what we did, I’ve seen things with my players that I liked. This is the beginning of the season. It’s not where you start, it’s where you end.”