EDWARDSVILLE — The Edwardsville Tigers overcame a one-game deficit to defeat the O’Fallon Panthers Tuesday in an anticipated Southwestern Conference showdown at Lucco-Jackson Gymnasium.
EHS rallied to win the match 20-25, 25-21, 25-15 to improve to 16-3 overall and 5-0 in the SWC. The Panthers slipped to 20-5 and 3-3 with the loss.
O’Fallon won the first game 25-20. The score was tied at one and two points early. The Panthers’ Elise Smith then strung together a four-point serving run to give O’Fallon a 6-3 lead. Kills from Cassie Reno and Kaity Mueller contributed to the run.
The Panthers never lost the lead for the rest of the game and held an eight-point (18-10) lead at one time. However, Edwardsville came to life at the end of the game, as it cut O’Fallon’s lead to three and four points.
Outside hitter Rachel Pranger’s kill cut O’Fallon’s lead to 20-14 and a two-point serving run from Shelby Saye made the score 20-16.
Just minutes later, a three-point serving run from Kate Martin cut O’Fallon’s lead to three points at 23-20. Martin’s ace gave Edwardsville’s its’ 20th point. However, the Tigers couldn’t sustain the momentum for the win.
“We were a little out of system for the first half of the match,” Edwardsville coach Jami Parker said. “We made some errors we don’t normally make and made more errors than usual. But I was proud of them. This was a tough match. O’Fallon had a great crowd here. This is a rowdy gym and the girls settled in and they played their game.”
Nicki Meyer’s service run in the early part of the second gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead. Edwardsville maintained a two to three point lead throughout most of the early part of the game.
Megan Woll’s four-point serving run made the score 13-6 and put the momentum in the Tigers’ favor. Edwardsville held an eight-point (18-10) lead at one time, but a Panthers’ surge challenged the Tigers.
Mackenzie Koester’s four-point service run cut Edwardsville’s lead to two-points, as the Tigers led 20-18. Smith’s kill less than a minute later pulled O’Fallon even closer at 20-19, but a 4-2 Edwardsville run gave the Tigers a 25-21 win in game two.
Parker thought some of the momentum from the final minutes of the first game carried over to the second game.
“The girls started playing cleaner, the girls reduced their errors and started taking some good swings,” she said.
In game three, O’Fallon built a 3-2 lead, but a Pranger kill tied the score up at three. Then Pranger strung together a six-point service run to make the score 9-3.
Edwardsville continued to control the lead throughout the game. Martin put together and impressive seven-point service run in the latter part of the game to give the Tigers a 24-14 lead and they won the third game 25-15. Martin had three aces in the run.
“The match was still close at the point when she took over,” Parker said of Martin’s run. “She has a really aggressive float serve and it was hitting here tonight.”
Martin mentioned mental attitude.
“I try not to think about it too much,” she said. “I just try to get my serve in.”
O’Fallon coach Melissa Massey admitted Edwardsville’s serving was problematic for the Panthers.
“They’re a great serving team,” she said. “That was expected and we worked on it in practice, but we kind of fell apart there.”
Pranger finished the night leading her team in kills with 13. She also had two aces. Martin knocked down eight kills and had five aces.
Pranger credited team chemistry as a deciding factor in the victory.
“I think it was our communication and our energy,” Pranger said. “I think we were a lot better in the second and third set.”
Edwardsville returns to SWC action at 6 p.m. Thursday with an away match against Belleville East.