BETHALTO – Take it from Sydney Marshall, a junior for the Civic Memorial High volleyball team. The host Eagles had to go all-out to defeat neighborhood rival Roxana in a three-game nonconference match Monday.
CM prevailed 25-18, bowed 25-21, then won the decisive third game, 25-11. For a while, it went back and forth in the local bragging rights battle.
“They are a very scrappy team,” said the 5-foot-9 Marshall, who serves as the Eagles’ setter. “So we had to be equally scrappy.”
Marshall finishing with 28 assists and five kills, ignited the plucky Eagles in the third game. The Shells closed to within 7-5 early on in it, then CM went on an eight-point spree to build a 10-point advantage at 15-5. The Eagles then increased their lead to 23-9 before settling for their second victory over the Shells in four days. They also bested them Friday in the Alton Tournament.
“That’s Roxana,” CM coach Amanda Biggs said. “They are a scrappy team that doesn’t quit.”
And CM is showing some of that same gritty play. While the Shells dropped to 5-9, the Eagles improved to 7-2. They went 6-23 last season, so they are experiencing a dramatic turnaround. And the Eagles are doing it without a senior starter.
“It’s an amazing team and we are playing with a lot of teamwork,” Marshall said. “That’s what it takes – more teamwork – not playing as an individuals. It's going to be exciting the rest of this year and next year."
Biggs likes what she sees thus far.
“This (success) is something we have been building on for the past two years,” she said. “This team has definitely matured from last year and I'm glad to see the results. But we are taking it day by day.”
Kennedy Carnes, a 5-11 junior, contributed 10 kills to the winning effort. Junior hitter Cara Melton pitched in with six kills, as did sophomore Hannah Schmidt. Junior Kaity Kappler and sophomore Susan Buchanan collected five kills apiece. Teammates Annika Ochs and Tahler Davis also figured in the fun.
Marshall stayed active, getting in the middle of things and supplying solid setting.
“I enjoy doing that,” she said of preparing powerful spikes. “I always feel that when the hitters make a good shot, it’s like I helped to make it happen. And we have a lot of good hitters.”
Biggs added, “Sydney is definitely the player on our team that pulls everybody together. She runs our offense, has great hands, is quick and gets to about every ball.”
Roxana coach Mike McKinney enjoyed the way the Shells attacked the Eagles. They used some solid work from senior Kara Meyer to win the second game. CM sliced Roxana’s lead to 14-13 before the Shells benefited from a 9-3 spurt to pull away from the Eagles.
“We changed something in what we do without any practice,” McKinney said. “We speeded up things and I can’t fault. The girls did a great job. I couldn’t ask for anything more from them. Kara was all over the place, hitting and digging."
Meyer logged eight kills and meshed strong net play with timely serving. So did sophomore Braeden Lackey, amassing five kills. Starters Taylor Jackson, Niah Bevolo, Keely Reardon, Abby Palen and Katie Herndon also pushed the Shells’ play.
“I thought we had a lot of energy tonight and I hope it will carry over when we play another rival, East Alton-Wood River, on Tuesday,” McKinney said. “This match was fun to watch because we played hard. I want us to keep playing like that.”
CM plays host to Highland on Tuesday in Mississippi Valley Conference action. The Eagles go to Waterloo on Thursday in another Valley affair. Roxana entertains Litchfield on Wednesday in a rescheduled match. It was originally set for Thursday.