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Eastern handles Peru in three-set win

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DIVERSION: Peru’s Samantha Zac (23) does enough with the block to force Eastern’s Loralei Evans (9) to change her attack plan during Tuesday night’s non-conference volleyball match. Zac had four solo blocks and six kills on the evening in the Tigers’ 25-23, 25-9, 25-20 loss to the Comets.
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COVERAGE: Peru freshman Casidy Bartel (R) reaches a serve that went over the head of junior Maddie See (L) during Tuesday night’s non-conference volleyball match against Eastern. The Tigers played with the Comets throughout the first set, lost their way in set two and the start of set three but nearly drew the match to a fourth set, ultimately falling 25-23, 25-9, 25-20 to the Comets.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

For a moment during the third set of Tuesday night’s volleyball match at the Tig-Arena, Peru drew back the fans preparing to hit the exit doors with a late surge that nearly caught Eastern flat-footed.

It was a return to the first set where the two teams had seemingly traded off every other point but in the end, the Comets shut down the attempt to extend the match to a fourth set, claiming a 25-23, 25-9, 25-20 win over the Tigers.

The opening set was a give-and-take affair between the two squads, alternating practically each of the first 30 points of the match.

After Peru grabbed a 17-15 lead, Eastern ran off four-straight points to take a 19-17 lead, only for the Tigers to return to the lead after claiming the next three points.

The Comets grabbed four of the next five points to take a 23-21 lead and alternated off points again to win the first set 25-23.

Peru head coach Dennett Roettger said the set was nerve-racking to be sure and while it didn’t go the team’s way, the girls stayed right with the visitors the entire set.

“The girls have learned to get a rally going and fight for those points,” Roettger said. “They focused on their serves because they know that service points win games.

“They buckled down and controlled the ball pretty well. We’re okay with having those point here, point there games because they were keeping right with Eastern.”

The way the first set played out made the second set all the more perplexing as Eastern raced out to a 9-0 lead that grew to double digits at 12-1.

Peru failed to get its first three serves over the net and only managed three points off its serve, two coming from Casidy Bartel aces, as the visitors stretched the lead out to 20-4 and closed the set off quickly 25-9.

The tepid response wasn’t what Roettger expected after the first set but was one that had cropped up from time to time in other matches.

“Sometimes we lose them, and it’s not just one girl, it’s everyone” Roettger said about the lack of response in the second set. “It’s an enigma.

“We didn’t change the lineup, one that’s been working pretty well. There wasn’t a lot of talking, so communication is something we have to work on again at practice.”

Play in the third set followed the script written by the first set early on as the teams traded points off until 6-5, where the Comets switched copies to the second set, opening a five-point gap at 12-7.

Facing a second blowout when trailing 21-11, the Tigers finally snapped to attention, scoring the next five points to trim the deficit in half and bringing the gap down to 22-18, forcing Eastern to call time out.

Two Samantha Zak kills followed, closing the deficit to 22-20 and forcing the Comets into another time out.

Eastern wrestled back the serve on the following point, however, and closed the match out from there.

Peru will look to regroup with a week off until a stretch of three road matches in three days, starting with a rematch against North Miami next Tuesday.

The Warriors nicked the first meeting at the Tom-Hawk Tournament in three sets and Roettger said the team wanted to get the win back.

“We played North Miami already this season and the result has fueled our fire,” Roettger said. “We’re on a mission to beat North Miami.

“We shouldn’t have lost the match in the tournament and we’ve gotten better since then. Playing teams like Kokomo and Eastern have given us the practice we need to be ready for North Miami next week.”