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CM's Kaitlyn Kappler and Kennedy Carnes go up for a block Thursday against Metro East Lutheran.
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Cara Melton prepares to serve for the Eagles on Thursday.
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The Eagles discuss strategy during a match with Metro East Lutheran at home on Thursday.
BETHALTO — The Civic Memorial Eagles cashed in on solid play at the net on Thursday at home.
With 14 kills and three blocks from Saige Gehrs, nine kills from Baliegh Gehrs and three blocks from Kennedy Carnes, the Eagles rallied to beat Metro East Lutheran in three games, 23-25, 25-16, 25-18 in a non-conference match.
CM improved to 5-14 with the victory, while MELHS slipped to 4-14. It only marked the second win of the season at home for the Eagles.
"Tonight was probably one of the best games I've played all season," Saige Gehrs said.
For a pair of young squads who have found wins coming at a premium, there were plenty of positives for both sides Thursday.
"What I told the girls in practice after our Waterloo loss (Tuesday) was we were starting our season over with this match tonight," CM head coach Amanda Biggs said. "We practiced yesterday and I said everything we're doing from here forward is building us and preparing us for regionals."
It was competitive from the get-go Thursday. Game 1 saw eight ties, the last coming at 21-21. The largest lead by either team in the opening set was five by the Eagles when they led 17-12 following an ace by Sydney Marshall. It was one of a team-best four aces for Marshall on the night.
Four service errors in Game 1 was the biggest blemish for CM, as Metro pulled out the 25-23 win.
"It was a fantastic, positive experience of some good back-and-forth volleyball," said MELHS head coach Jon Giordano. "We just had one bad run in the second game and one bad run in the third game and we couldn't do enough to catch up, even though we had some nice long rallies and some fantastic individual plays."
CM was able to catapult out in front in Game 2 with a 9-0 spurt to extend a 5-4 lead to 14-4. A pair of aces from Marshall and a block by Saige Gehrs highlighted the run.
The Knights rallied to get it to 20-15 on a block by Morgan Schneider and Hannah Landers and then 21-16 on a kill by Schneider, but the Eagles closed it out with a 4-0 run to win 25-16. Cara Melton and Kaitlyn Kappler hammered home kills and Carnes added an ace down the stretch.
Fittingly, on a night that saw the freshman and JV matches go three games, varsity would do the same.
"We just had a lot of volleyball," Giordano quipped.
Game 3 saw the Eagles step it up at the net, especially the elder Gehrs. Saige Gehrs stuffed nine of her match-high 14 kills in Game 3. Four of those kills came on an 8-0 run to start the game for CM.
"I had an 80 percent hitting average the third game," Gehrs said. "That's probably the best I've had all season. We were just on at everything, defense, setting, hitting, everything was on."
Biggs added, "At practice this week we really broke down the opposing team and how to read their hitters and be more aggressive at the net and be dominant because we have those dominant players and we haven't been stepping up and showing how aggressive we can be at the net."
The Knights made a valiant effort, cutting it to 15-10 with a 7-2 spurt midway through Game 3. It proved to be as close as MELHS could get to the Eagles.
"They're just tough at the net in general," Giordano said. "I thought we did OK at times adjusting, but they're just strong and that's hard to overcome, especially with our noticed lack of height."
Besides the solid hitting stats, CM got 15 service points from Marshall and 12 from Melton. Alaina Trosley led with 13 digs, while Marshall and Monica Ledesma set the stage for the Eagles with 19 and 15 assists respectively.
The Knights received five kills from Landers and four each from Schneider and Danielle Timmermann. Lydia Flaherty paced MELHS with 12 assists and Abby McMahon had 12 digs.
The win was exciting for Biggs personally, who coached under Giordano and played for him as a prep player at Metro. It avenged a loss to the Knights in her first season at the helm of the Eagles in 2013, too.
"It's always a great match when we play Lutheran High, because I started coaching there, I played there," Biggs said. "It always gives the girls a little more because they want to support me. Having a good foundation and starting point with (Giordano) has prepared me for my time here."
Giordano added, "I've known Amanda for 14 years now, so it's neat to see her as she was a student, then an assistant and now running her own program and you see how much these girls love her. There's a sense of satisfaction from that and admiration for what she's done working with the kids and the relationships she's building...and it makes me feel old, but that happens."