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Maconaquah takes down Tippecanoe Valley in four

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OVER MY HEAD: Maconaquah setter Averi Miller throws a set behind her to a waiting attacker during Thursday night’s TRC volleyball match against Tippecanoe Valley. Miller set up nearly 50 kills on the night for teammates in the Braves 3-1 win over the Vikings.
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AT THE GATE: Maconaquah’s Taylor Roesler (9) stuffs a Tippecanoe Valley attack at the net during Thursday night’s TRC volleyball match. Roesler had five blocks to go with nine kills and five points in the Braves’ 23-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-22 win over the Vikings.
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RIGHT DOWN THE LINE: Maconaquah’s Brooke Borden (17) manages to beat the Tippecanoe Valley block for a kill during the fourth set of Thursday night’s TRC volleyball match. Borden had eight kills and four blocks for the Braves in the 3-1 win over the Vikings.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

In one of the first marquee matchups in TRC volleyball play this season, Maconaquah hosted Tippecanoe Valley Thursday with both teams looking to move to 3-0 in conference play.

The Vikings grabbed the opening set but the Braves grabbed the next two by comfortable margins and held off the visitors in the fourth set, winning the match 23-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-22.

Though Maconaquah was the victor, Braves head coach Jessica Metcalf said the squad could have made life much easier on itself throughout the night.

“We had too many unforced errors and we have to play better ball,” Metcalf said. “Yes, we’re doing good things but we had total control of the serves and had 15 service errors, we had control of the hits but we had way too many bad hits and we have to get better.

“Valley is a tough team; we knew that coming in and we’re pretty evenly matched. I told the girls they had to go out, to play with positive energy and we had that in spurts which thankfully helped us take the last three sets.”

Tippecanoe Valley got off to a fine start to the match, racing out to an 8-2 start before Maconaquah started to get back into proceedings, closing the gap to three at 11-8 and 14-11.

The Braves would get ties at 16-16, 18-18 and 19-19 but could never take the lead and Makenzie Woodcox helped the Vikings over the line with four kills down the stretch to take a 25-23 win in the opener.

Metcalf said initially the girls were on their heels a bit when facing Woodcox but a few exchanges late gave the squad added confidence going forward.

“Our block realized (Woodcox) could be blocked,” Metcalf said after the first set. “We made fewer mistakes each set we played.

“Our communication picked up a little bit on the floor. We’re trying to encourage the girls to keep playing their best ball and we will get better, it’s just one practice at a time.”

The hosts came out firing to start the second set, taking a7-0 lead off the serve of Rafaela Reitz, who picked up two aces during the stretch.

Emily Bowyer hit a historical milestone while making the score 8-1, recording her 1000th kill at Maconaquah.

The lead grew to 10 at 16-6 and again at 18-8 before Tippecanoe Valley started to show signs of life, closing the gap to six twice and later five but much too late to keep the Braves from winning the set 25-19.

Once the girls gained some confidence, Metcalf said the team came out with a completely different focus in the set.

“After the first set, when we chatted about where our errors were being made, the girls realized that Valley was beatable,” Metcalf said. “Once this group realizes they can beat a team, getting a big lead was advantageous to us.

“A big lead at 7-0 is not big enough until it hits 25, so they have to maintain it. I’m glad they stuck it out and pulled through.”

Unlike the first two sets, the opening points of the third set were hotly contested, even if the standard of play dropped slightly as a result.

The hosts finally started to make some headway by taking a 14-9 lead, increasing the lead to seven at 20-13 before the Vikings picked up three-straight points to cut the lead to four.

Maconaquah steadied itself behind kills from Atlanta Huckleby and Brooke Borden to close out the set 25-18 and take a 2-1 lead in the match.

The fourth set played out much like the third in the initial phase with the teams locked into a tie as late as 8-8 before the Braves found some space at 12-8.

Taylor Roesler won an important point of what looked to be a lost cause while Bowyer stretched the lead to 18-13 on a kill that rode the net before falling onto the visitors’ side.

Tippecanoe Valley would not go quietly as the visitors rallied behind Woodcox, who scored five of the next nine points, helping the Vikings to tie the match at 20-20.

A missed serve gave the ball back to the Braves where Roesler buried a kill, Reitz recorded an ace and Roesler finished the match with a tip for the 25-22 win.

“We told the girls they make or break it,” Metcalf said about the message at the close of the match. “You either play good ball and be smart or you’re going to go into a fifth set and these girls don’t like playing five sets.

“I told them a lot of the game is mental and to go play smart ball. Put the ball in the open spot, don’t try to do anything fancy and roll with it.”

Metcalf added the win required a collective effort up front with Bowyer, Reitz, Roesler, Borden and Huckleby combining for nearly 50 kills on the night to counter Tippecanoe Valley’s attack.

“We’re excited Emily got to 1000 kills tonight,” Metcalf said. “We look to continue to build on that.

“Atlanta is coming along; she’s seeing open spots on the floor better, taking a better approach and getting a swing on her. Taylor also has come along and stayed with the block we.

“We’re still considered a young team and try to put a little bit of punch in everything we do,” Metcalf added.

Maconaquah, now 11-2 and 3-0 in TRC play, gets the weekend off from competition and will face Wabash next Tuesday at 6 p.m. with Metcalf noting the squad was still trying to make progress as it evolves its offense moving forward.

“For us, we have to come in and practice a quicker offense,” Metcalf said. “Fortunately, the girls are all on board with that.

“They’re comfortable with doing a quicker offense but we need Averi (Miller) to get the ball, which means the passers have to get it to her. Wabash is going to be a challenge but they are coming to us and we hopeful home court help a little bit.”