Story by Mike Monahan • Photos by Dominic Baima
A taller, older Mattoon volleyball team pulled out a 25-22, 25-23 sweep of Charleston on Thursday at Baker Gymnasium.
Bella Smith, a 5-foot-7 senior, one of 10 on the team, had 2 aces, 7 assist and 5 kills, but the big thing was seven straight service points in the second set to put the Green Wave ahead 16-11. Both of her aces occurred during the run and Amanda Bailey had two blocks during the key run.
“She is one hundred percent invaluable as an athlete,” said Mattoon coach Kayla Quick, an Eastern Illinois and 2012 Mattoon grad. “I can use her in the back row and trust that she has great hands. She has a great connection with all of the hitter that we have at the net. She has a beautiful hit when she is in the front row. She is an all around fantastic athlete and I love having her.”
Charleston coach Steve Pamperin was pleased with his team’s improvement from a 25-17, 25-17 loss to Cumberland.
“We looked at tonight as a positive step,” said Pamperin. “I was really impressed with how hard we played and we had good ball control.”
After Mattoon’s run, Charleston answered with its own. Ellie Jacobs, one of four seniors for the Trojans, served four unanswered points after getting the serve on a kill by sophomore Addison Shrader.
“We stayed calm and stayed together,” said Pamperin. “We grew a lot from Tuesday and I hope I see us continue to grow one match, one game at a time.”
The Trojans led 23-21 after an ace by Adalyn Wood. That would be their final point as a service error gave Mattoon the serve and Bella Smith not only served the final three points, but also got the final point.
In the first set, Smith had sparked a 5-1 start with four service points, which included a tip and a kill by Averie Smith. Mattoon led 8-3 in the volleyball version of the Coles County Clash where both student sections were boisterous.
“To get the lead first for my girls, it is huge,” said Quick. “What I have learned about these girls is that when they get down on themselves they sometimes have a difficult time pulling themselves out of that hole that they created. For them, that lead is massive. They just have to believe that they have the skills that I know they have.”
Mattoon led by as much as six starting with 13-7 after three points by Jessica Evans, which included a tip by Faith Niebrugge and a kill by 6-footer Holly McReynolds.
Charleston’s Genavieve Braden served three points, including an ace, to help the Trojans closed the gap to 17-16.
Mattoon maintained the lead although Charleston moved within one twice, 18-17 and 23-22. One of five service errors by the Trojans gave Mattoon 24-22 advantage and a block by Averie Smith ended the match.
Chloe Jobe led Mattoon in digs with 12 and Averie Smith finished with five kills.
Serving was a priority Mattoon had after making nine against Shelbyville in a win.
“This week in practice before we came to Charleston we focused on serving. Sometimes,” said Quick, “I am going to put that pressure on them and sometimes Team Massive (MHS student section) with their energy in the gym helps us. We really worked hard this week in practice on creating that energy themselves and learning to overcome some of those butterflies. I am really proud that we were able to come back in the second set. Our goal was to have five or fewer service errors.”
Mattoon finished with four service errors, while Charleston had eight.
Mattoon will next host Mahomet-Seymour on Tuesday, while Charleston travels to Carbondale on Saturday for a tournament.
“The defense played well as a team and we served aggressively, “ said Pamperin.
Mattoon won the junior varsity contest in three sets, 21-25, 26-24, 15-12. In the third set they led 8-2, before Charleston rallied to tie the contest at eight.