By Mike Monahan

The defense shined for Mattoon during Thursday’s Apollo Conference volleyball match in the West Gym as the high school gym was being decorated for Homecoming.

Mattoon, 1-4 in its previous five matches, outlasted Effingham for a three-set victory, 25-20, 18-25, 25-11. 

“I told the girls in the huddle I was going to mimic one of their club coaches that said, ‘While I am proud of their offensive game tonight, they didn’t’ stop swinging,” Mattoon coach Kayla Quick said. “They didn’t play scared. The real difference here is that among to mimic one club coaches that said ‘defense is the way to win games.’ The real difference here is what put them over the edge tonight. In the second set I told them the difference here is that your ervide receive  and hour defense wasn’t where it needed to be in the second set. They brought it back in the third set and they were able to give ood pases so we could be successful with our set and our hits from the next.”

In the decisive third set, the Green Wave led 8-6 after a service error by the Flaming Hearts. Faith Niebrugge responded by serving the next two points, including a kill by Holly McReynolds, to put MHS ahead 10-6.

Mattoon eventually built a 18-11 lead after a kill by Holly McReynods. Averie Smith served the final seven points of the match, including two aces. 

“For our team we seem to always let up that second set, “ said Bella Smith. “With our team, the most important thing is picking each other up. Because if one person gets down everyone falls down. Picking each other up is the most important thing.”

Chloe Jobe led MHS in digs with 19 while Averie Smith had a team-high nine kills and four blocks. Bella Smith was tops in assists with 10 and McDaniel had three aces.

The Green Wave finished with 39 digs and 10.5 blocks. 

“It is definitely stressful,” said Averie Smith of playing a third set. “ It was a big time for me to focus on what is important in the game. I think at that time not only did I have to serve aggressively, but I had to execute. It is definitely a high tension point, but it was good to be at  the line and have control of that.”

In the second set, Effignham scored two points, including an ace by Krista Philips for a 15-10 lead. Megan Ballman served two points to win by seven and force a final third set.

“Super important to be 3-3 in the conference,” said Averie Smith. “I think coming back from a couple of  games that were rough, coming out with a game like this –– Effingham is always a big competition of ours. So it is good to come out on top. I am excited to play them later in the season. I think this gives us a little bit of momentum to carry on for the rest of the games.”

Bella Smith served the first eight points for Mattoon, including two aces and two kills by Averie Smith in the opening set. 

Averie and Bella Smith got their photo taken with several Effingham players who all played for Rapid Fire in Shelbyville. 

“I love playing against them,” said Bella Smith. “Averie Smith got a block on Kennedy Sowell and she was just laughing it off.”

In the first set, Mattoon’s Niebrugge served four points including an ace for an 18-12 lead. The Green Wave went on to win by five. 

Mattoon improved to 8-5 overall, while Effingham, which had won five of its last six, dropped to 7-12 overall and 1-6 in the conference. 

The junior varsity fell to 5-5 with a three-set match loss to Effingham 25-18, 31-33, 15-12, while the freshmen team nearly pulled off its first win, forcing the Hearts to three sets,21-17, 24-22, 15-1.