Charleston’s Natalie Coartney goes up for a block against Mattoon on Wednesday night. On Thursday, she registered nine kills in a three-set victory over Mt Zion.

By Travis Buckwalter

Going into the third set, Mt. Zion and Charleston had traded blows the entire volleyball match. Charleston had won the first set, 25-18, and Mt Zion the second at 25-23.

The final set would be no different. The largest lead was held by Mt. Zion at five when the Braves led the Trojans, 9-4. That lead was erased quickly, with a five-point swing kicked off with senior Natalie Coartney’s first kill of the set and capped off with an ace by senior Abby Kallis, her third of the match.

From that point on, the scoring went back and forth, and it might have seemed to some watching in the stands as though the game would go on forever.

“It was pretty wild actually,” said Kallis, when asked about what she and her team were thinking in the third set. “It seemed chaotic, but most of the time I knew we had each other.”

Charleston then jumped out to a three-point lead after a Coartney kill was blocked but fell on the Mt. Zion side. The Braves battled back, in part, thanks to senior outside hitter Karlee Mcatee, who had two two kills that helped Mt. Zion tie the score at 19.

“She’s a big hitter,” said Charleston coach Steve Pamperin. “They take care of the ball really well to give her opportunities.”

No team could pull away until Mt. Zion took a 29-28 lead. That’s when junior Katarina Blase took over, with a kill, an assisted block with senior Kaleigh Wilson, and the final kill to enable Charleston to win 31-29 and defeat Mt. Zion 2-1 in the best-of-three format.

“She (Blase) has gained a tremendous amount of confidence,” said Pamperin. “Our team has a lot confidence in her, and we also have hitters who can help take the pressure off her.”

Those other hitters included Wilson and Coartney, who had 16 and nine kills in the match, respectively. Blase added 12 kills. The trio accounted for 37 of CHS’s 43 kills in the match.

 “We’ve been trying to get (Coartney) more touches outside,” Pamperin said. “And Kaleigh Wilson was able to get us a lot of kills tonight as well.”

Kallis led the team in assists with 38 and junior Hannah Buescher led the Trojans with 14 digs.

The Trojans (18-6) will travel to Taylorville next Tuesday in a match set for 7 p.m.