BETHALTO – What the Civic Memorial Eagles started Tuesday night, they couldn’t quite finish.
Jersey’s Panthers made certain of that in their Mississippi Valley Conference volleyball rivalry game at CM. The Eagles won the first game, 25-15, but the Panthers flipped the momentum factor their way the rest of the night. They prevailed 25-19, 25-17 to avenge a loss to the Eagles in the Alton Tournament.
“We needed a win, just to get over the hump,” Jersey coach Bob Siemer said. The Panthers did that in improving to 9-10 overall and 1-4 in the Valley. The Eagles fell to 7-8-3 and 0-5.
CM seemed in control following a 10-point first-game victory, but Jersey showed plenty of resiliency, Siemer said.
“We changed our blocking at the net after the first game and got some momentum going,” he said. “We just have to keep playing as hard as we can.”
MacKenzie Thurston did that in supplying 11 kills and the Panthers’ serving game, led by Hannah Greene, recorded nine aces.
“Our philosophy on offense is to try and get the ball to Mackenzie every time,” Siemer said. “She has an incredible hitting percentage.”
Thanks to Kennedy Carnes and Kaity Kappler, the Eagles pounded the ball around the net. Carnes, a 5-foot-11 junior, registered 14 kills and a couple of blocks. Kappler, a 5-10 junior, provided nine kills and two aces. In addition, setter Sydney Marshall registered 27 assists.
“We’re really struggling at finishing a match,” CM coach Amanda Biggs said at the turn of events after the first game. “That has been a weakness and cost us some matches. We really needed this win."
She added, “It’s a momentum sport and we have to control the momentum after getting ahead like we did in the first game. You have to continue it.”
CM opened up a 17-8 advantage in the first game and extended it. The Eagles and Panthers were knotted seven times — the last one at 19-19 — in the second game. Then Jersey scored the final six points and carried that renewed confidence into the decisive third game.
Nevertheless, the Eagles led 6-3 and 12-10 before the Panthers regained their growl. Jersey used a 9-1 binge to forge in front 19-13 and never looked back. CM cut Jersey’s lead to 21-17 before the Panthers scored the final four points.
The loss gnawed at Biggs because the Eagles wasted some strong individual play, particular Carnes’ solid spiking.
“It was probably her best performance of the season,” Biggs said. “She was amazing in the front row tonight. Kaity also had a good performance. They work well together.”
While the Eagles mostly shined at the net, they experienced problems handling the Panthers’ serves.
“When you struggle with service receiving, everything else tends to fall apart,” Biggs said. “We’ve been building things with our (young) team this season and at some point you have to show what it is you are working toward to make progress. But with a finish like we had tonight, it doesn’t show our progress.”
CM will look to rebound with a tough road match in the MVC at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Highland.