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EA-WR senior Chrissy Long jumps to block a spike from Roxana junior Kara Meyer on Tuesday in Roxana.
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Roxana senior Bailey McGuire tips the ball over the net.
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EA-WR junior Lexie Johnson sets the ball over the net vs. the Shells.
ROXANA — What has been historically an intense volleyball rivalry between the Roxana Shells and East Alton-Wood River Oilers continued Tuesday at Roxana's Milazzo Gymnasium.
In the end, the Shells prevailed in an intense battle 25-23, 31-29.
The student sections were filled with school colors and the sounds of chants and cheers filled the air as the Shells and the Oilers took to the court. EA-WR and Roxana shared space in the South Central Conference for more than two decades, but with the Oilers finding a new home in the Prairie State Conference in 2014, the Roxana vs. EA-WR matchup still proves to be a rivalry well maintained.
"We know that these games don't count towards a conference championship, but I think this is a game each team personally wants to win," Shells senior Maddy Sheraka said. "It seems this is one of those games we work a little harder because we are all friends off the court and we both like those bragging rights."
In Game 1, the Oilers were the first to strike on the beginning serve by senior Kari Westbrook and set a tone early for the match. The two teams traded points throughout the first match until the Oilers took a brief four-point lead, but Roxana picked up momentum to tie the match at 21-21. The Shells were then able to bottle that momentum and finish Game 1 with a 25-23 win over the Oilers.
Game 2 proved to be just as intense after the Shells took off to an early seven-point lead. Roxana seniors Sheraka, Erica Sheets, Bailey McGuire, Skye Mounce and junior Kara Meyer took control and pushed the Shells lead to 18-11. Roxana looked to close the match on the Oilers, but EA-WR rallied through serves from Westbook, Heather Martin, Lexie Johnson and Brittany Grayson to stay alive.
Just as the Oilers tied the game 19-19 off of a point by Grayson, the officials reversed the call giving the Shells the point to extend their lead to 20-18. EA-WR regrouped to knot it at 22-22. The Shells and Oilers traded points to extend the game, keeping the score tied until the final game point situation.
With McGuire serving, Roxana owned a 30-29 with match point on the line. The Shells earned the victory on an illegal hit call against EA-WR.
"My girls started strong and came back when they got down, I couldn't be more proud," Oiler head coach Patti Scott said. "We are a never-say-die team and I have to say that I love that they want it that bad, they never gave up."
The rivalry between EA-WR and Roxana that dates back for generations is still alive and well between the students and coaches although a little more friendly these days with nonconference action.
"This is one of those games where you really want the win, conference or not," Sheets said. "Everyone at school is always talking about the games that we play Wood River and our crowds are always so much more involved."
EA-WR senior Chrissy Long said, "I don't think the rivalry is as strongly noticed since it's not a conference game anymore, but I think the intensity is still there. When I look on the schedule, this is one of those games that I know that we really want to win because a lot of us have played other sports together as kids; we're friends."
As in any sport, momentum is a useful tool and volleyball is no different.
"In volleyball, momentum is very different and its hard to break it if the other team has it," Roxana head coach Mike McKinney said. "They wanted the win, we wanted the win and it made every point excruciating. This game wasn't given to anyone, both teams had to work for every point. If every time we played went the way it did tonight, volleyball would have more fans and more people would follow it."
Statistically, the Shells were led by Deb Bethel with eight assists, nine points and two aces, while junior Kara Meyer added nine kills. McGuire racked up eight kills while Sheraka had three blocks. Sheets had three kills and senior Morgan Liley had three digs.
For the Oilers, Long put up eight blocks and five kills while Martin had seven kills and Grayson added six kills. Westbrook had two aces and seven assists.
The Shells only get one day of rest before heading to Litchfield to battle the Purple Panthers at 6 p.m. Thursday, while the Oilers travel to Nokomis to engage in a conference match 6 p.m. Thursday.