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Maconaquah rides out Wabash challenge

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KEEP THE DIVE ALIVE: Maconaquah’s Aubree Dedaker (Front) reaches low to save a ball from hitting the deck during Tuesday night’s TRC volleyball match against Wabash. Dedaker had 16 digs and 16 receptions from the back row in the Braves’ 25-9, 27-25, 22-25, 25-18 win over the Apaches.
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COMMITTEE: With only one Wabash attack option likely, Maconaquah front liners (L to R) Atlanta Huckleby, Brooke Borden and Emily Bowyer go up for a block during Tuesday night’s TRC volleyball match. The Braves got some measure of revenge on the Apaches for last season’s loss in the de facto TRC title game, winning 25-9, 27-25, 22-25, 25-18.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

In a rematch between the top two teams in the 2018 TRC volleyball standings, Maconaquah hosted Wabash looking to preserve its unbeaten start to conference play.

For the Apaches, it was the opening conference match of the year for the visitors  and it showed early as the Braves swept away the opening set before eventually taking the match 25-9, 27-25, 22-25, 25-18.

Maconaquah head coach Jessica Metcalf said the opening to the match was a bit out of the ordinary but said she expected Wabash to show the fight it eventually would display.

“I was a little surprised in the first set,” Metcalf said. “Wabash is typically a pretty aggressive team but they came out a little flat and we played very well.

“After the first set, I told the girls I guarantee coach Katie (Cromer) has her kids fired up and they’ll play more aggressive, which they did. It was much tougher from there but for us, we need to play better ball for us.

“If we’re getting better at practice, that’s great, and we’re playing well but we still need to get better,” Metcalf added.

The opening set belied the importance of the match for both teams as Maconaquah raced out to an early lead with Wabash struggling to get anything going.

A 25-9 win for the Braves was not far off and the malaise for the Apaches carried into the second set as the hosts were beginning to create breathing space holding a 16-9 lead.

It was then that a throwaway point which had the Maconaquah team laughing seemed to light a fire under the visitors, who turned the seven-point deficit into a tie at 17-17 following a pair of kills from Lexi Westendorf.

Wabash then took a two-point lead at 19-17 and 20-18 before the Braves began to recalibrate, taking a 22-21 lead after three consecutive aces from Emily Bowyer.

Alivia Short answered with a pair of kills to retake the lead for the Apaches with the match tied at 23-23 off an Atlanta Huckleby kill.

The two teams traded off the next four points to leave the score leveled at 25-25 before Bowyer took the lead from the back row and Taylor Roesler put the set away with a point at the net.

With Wabash now up and running, the start to the third set was hotly contested with the teams splitting the first 16 points before the hosts took a brief lead at 11-8.

The Apaches tied the match up at 12-12 off a Haylie Faust ace before the Braves took the next three points, only for the visitors to take the next four.

A spurt with the score tied at 19-19 gave Wabash the breathing room it needed to hold off Maconaquah in the set as Short and Westendorf put down kills to extend the match another round.

Metcalf said the team was beginning to understand the task in front of them and needed to buckle down before heading into the fourth set.

“In the second set, the girls realized (Wabash) was going to be competitive and they needed to kick it up a gear,” Metcalf said. “It came down to mental toughness.

“We didn’t do so hot in the third set and the girls have been in situations before where they’ve won the first two sets and lost the last three. We didn’t want to be in that situation and before the fourth set we told them they needed to go out and be aggressive; you know where to play defense, where to cover and everything you need to be doing so you need to go out, play point-to-point and come together as a team.”

The Braves got the better of the opening exchanged but found the score tied at 8-8 once again, a trend that would continue until the two teams were deadlocked at 14-14.

Three-straight points for the Braves, including a Roesler block and kill, created some separation and another three-point burst with an ace from Averi Miller and Huckleby kill gave the hosts a six-point advantage at 21-15.

Wabash had run out of steam and try as it might to extend the match, one more Huckleby kill would be the final blow as the hosts took the match in four sets.

Maconaquah, now 12-2 and 4-0 in TRC play, travels to Northwestern Thursday at 6 p.m., a marquee matchup and potential sectional preview match.

Metcalf said both teams were very solid and if the Braves focused on taking care of their own business, they would be in the match all the way through.

“We can only control what we can control,” Metcalf said. “We can serve aggressive, make sure we’re behind the ball when we’re passing, keep our passes off the net and get to our hitters to put them down.

“Northwestern’s a good team and we’re a good team. If we can control the parts of the game that we have control of, we can play with them.

“Last year, we played them in three sets in the regular season and didn’t do so hot,” Metcalf added. “We went to sectionals and got four sets out of them; right now, we feel we’re playing pretty good ball and we’ll just run with it and see what happens.”