CULVER — Coming into Tuesday night’s match with area rival Argos on the heels of a disappointing conference-opening loss to Triton last Thursday, the Culver Community volleyball team set a goal to put away the Dragons in three games.
The Lady Cavs jumped off to a fast start in the opening game and never once surrendered the lead, although Argos did tie the game up on four separate occasions. By the third set, the hosts had seemed to take some of the wind out of the Dragons’ sails, and Culver claimed a 25-22, 25-19, 25-15 win at home at John R. Nelson Gymnasium.
“I don’t think we trailed at all tonight. That’s been our big focus — getting a strong start and keeping going,” said Culver head volleyball coach Amanda Minix. “We’ve had matches already where we’ve gotten behind and we should’ve beaten the team or at least won a game. At the beginning we didn’t keep or foot on the gas and struggled some, but our serve receive is a big thing that we have really concentrated on all season long, and I think the girls did a very good job tonight with that.”
The Cavs jumped on top 8-1 in the opening set before the Dragons were able to rattle off six unanswered points en route to tying the game up at 16- and 17-all. Argos kept it close at 24-22 but closed out the opener with a misserve to give Culver an early one-game advantage.
The Cavs again pounced on the visitors in the second game, opening up a 6-0 lead and never led by less than four points the rest of the way for the 25-19 win. The Dragons played with a little more urgency at the start of the third game, staying close with Culver en route to 8-8 and 9-9 ties, but 10 straight points by the Cavs took the fight out of them — a run that included a pair of Donna Zehner kills and two aces by Samantha Howard — and Culver closed it out in three.
It wasn’t the performance Argos head coach Jim Daugherty was hoping for, especially after a strong scrimmage against the Cavs during the preseason.
“Volleyball is always a game of spurts. Somebody will have a little bit of momentum and they’ll run some points off and then somebody else will make a side out and then they’ll make a little run,” explained Daugherty. “These two teams have been battling for a long time. Earlier in the scrimmage, we played really well against them, and I think our girls backed off a little bit probably thinking that they had this one already in the bag.”
Adding to the area rivalry, one interesting subplot to Tuesday’s match was supplied by the fact that Daugherty is a former Culver Community coach, helping guide the Cavs to their first sectional championship in 1986.
Minix was herself a manager under Daugherty, and Culver JV coach Angie Schmal was a player under the current four-year Argos coach.
“I actually coached here; my picture’s out in the hall. I won their first sectional here and their first conference championship,” said Daugherty. “Amanda was my manager; she’s was still in junior high when I was here. Their JV coach, Angie, she was one of my players. It’s fun. I enjoy it.”
“My new JV coach, she was one of his players, and we talked last week about how we can’t wait to play Jim,” said Minix. “Coaching against him and being players for him, it’s always fun.”
The Cavaliers move a notch above .500 at 5-4 with Tuesday’s win. They were led by fourth-year standout Howard’s all-around performance of six kills, seven aces and nine assists, while junior front row player Zehner notched a match-high 12 kills, junior transfer Baylie Fearnow recorded 12 digs to lead the defense followed by Tosha Harris’ nine, and sophomore Megan Thompson — playing in the libero spot in the first year Culver has had the position — was also a solid presence on defense.
“We’ve talked to the girls about keeping their composure, keeping everybody up, trying to get going and looking for the open spots on the other side, to get balls in holes. We’ve got some girls who can place serve, and we’ve really tried to work on that,” said Minix. “We played all summer over in the Knox league, mainly all seven of my varsity players, and I think that helps a lot playing all summer and coming in ready to go from the start.”
Argos was led by Kelsey Kring in three statistical categories as she pounded out eight kills with 10 digs and a pair of aces.
Briana Overmyer led the visitors in setting with 19 assists, and DeVonna Lord recorded three solos blocks and two block assists in the front row for the Dragons, who slip to 2-7 with the loss.
“Kelsey has come into her senior year well, she’s playing really well,” Daugherty said. “I have to get her to play a little harder sometimes. A couple times today she stepped out on a ball. We’ve got to get her to get a ball and go with it.”
• CULVER 3,
ARGOS 0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-15)
Kills: Donna Zehner 12, Samantha Howard 6
Aces: Samantha Howard 7
Assists: Samantha Howard 9, Marisa Howard 6
Digs: Bayli Fearnow 12, Tosha Harris 9
Kills: Kelsey Kring 8
Aces: Kring 2
Assists: Briana Overmyer 19
Digs: Kring 10
Blocks: DeVonna Lord 3
Records: Culver 5-4, Argos 2-7
JV score: Culver 2, Argos 0 (25-19, 25-8)
JV records: Culver 3-3, Argos 0-5.