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Civic Memorial's Monica Ledesma prepares to serve on Wednesday at Marquette Catholic High School.
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Taylor Rook of the Explorers prepares to make a pass near the net on Wednesday vs. CM.
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Marquette's Alyssa Herzing prepares to serve at home on Wednesday against the Eagles.
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CM sophomore setter Sydney Marshall makes a pass on Wednesday against the Explorers.
ALTON — It took three sets to decide, but in the end the Marquette Catholic Explorers were able to stave off the Civic Memorial Eagles Wednesday at Marquette.
The Explorers improved to 3-3 on the young season, defeating the Eagles 25-15, 19-25, 25-16. With the loss, CM dropped to 0-2.
It took a late surge at the net for Marquette to squeak out the win. With the Eagles leading 15-14 midway through Game 3, the Explorers reeled off an 11-1 run to seal the home victory. Junior middle hitter Brittany Pace, 6-foot-1, picked up a kill and a pair of blocks down the stretch, while 6-1 junior Andria Pace logged a big block and a pair of aces on Marquette's last two points.
“I'm really proud of them,” first-year Marquette head coach Sue Heinz said. “They really pulled through. They wanted that win. That third game they started watching their shoulders and putting the blocks up.”
For second-year CM head coach Amanda Biggs, she was pleased to see the cohesion of her team. Early in the match it looked as if the Explorers would breeze to victory with the Eagles committing a plethora of unforced errors, but as the match continued CM settled down and played better.
“What I told them was tonight was the first time I've actually seen them come together as a team,” Biggs said. “We looked like we actually wanted to play for each other and I was very proud of that. We looked like we were in control. We controlled our side of the court and didn't let what was going on on the other side really effect us.”
In Game 1, the Eagles were only able to grab two leads. A kill from freshman Susan Buchanan put them ahead 1-0 and an ace from McKenna Geist saw CM in front 4-3.
The Eagles stayed close at 9-6, but then Marquette turned it on, stringing together a 9-0 run to pocket a comfortable 18-6 lead. The run began and ended with kills from Anna Daugherty of the Explorers.
CM attempted to come back, cutting it to 19-11, but three service errors down the stretch helped Marquette pick up the Game 1 win. The Eagles had a total of six service errors in Game 1.
The momentum shifted to CM in Game 2 though. The two teams traded blows until the Eagles pushed ahead 14-13 and never trailed again. A couple of aces from Cara Melton and a kill from Saige Gehrs helped expand CM's lead to 18-13.
Marquette was able to dwindle it down to 21-19 on a block by Brittany Pace, but the Eagles were able to hold on for the win. A pair of aces from Saige Gehrs over the final two points closed out the Game 2 victory.
The insertion of the freshman Buchanan into the lineup seemed to be a boost to CM as the Eagles are still figuring out a game plan for the season with a fairly young squad.
“We brought up Susan; we had some roster changes and she is somebody who no matter what is going to go out and do exactly what I say, exactly how I say to do it and she's just grown phenomenally,” Biggs said.
In Game 3, CM sustained its momentum early. A kill by Buchanan, an ace by Melton and a kill by Saige Gehrs staked the Eagles to a quick 3-0 lead.
CM remained in front until Marquette was finally able to knot it at 14-14. A kill by Baleigh Gehrs shot the Eagles back ahead 15-14, but a net violation on the next play allowed the Explorers to tie it at 15-15. They would never trail again, reeling off a dominant 11-1 run to close out the match.
“Caitlyn Hanlon, a junior, stepped up there at the end and our serves — I don't think we had more than two serves we missed all night,” Heinz said. “That's crucial, because in any game like that which is close you can't miss any serves. I would definitely point to Anna (Daugherty), Caitlyn and then Alyssa (Herzing) and then of course our libero (Katie Gierer) every game, she's all over the place.”
Biggs said it was like night and day between CM's loss at East Alton-Wood River to open the season and Wednesday's loss to the Explorers.
“Our loss to Wood River last week was hard,” Biggs said. “To bounce back with a match like this, I'm so proud of them. We've worked on a lot, just breaking down the basics and controlling what we can control and they're coming together.”
Statistically, Marquette was led by Anna Daugherty's six kills, Brittany Pace's eight blocks, Alyssa Herzing's 12 assists, Andria Pace's five aces and five service points and Katie Geierer's 16 digs. Taylor Rook also chipped in with six blocks, while Brittany Pace added three kills and Herzing picked up three aces.
For the Eagles, Saige Gehrs led at the net with four kills, while Baleigh Gehrs added three kills and Buchanan had two. Melton chipped in with three aces, 10 service points and six digs and Monica Ledesma paced the offense with six assists.
The Explorers are back in action at 5 p.m. today in Greenville. CM is idle until 6 p.m. Tuesday when it plays host to Granite City in its home opener.