MONROE — Tuesday night, the Prairie City-Monroe volleyball team took its home floor for the first time this season in search of a couple victories, but what the Carlisle Wildcats gave the Mustangs was far from a warm homecoming.
The Wildcats took three straight sets from the Mustangs, commanding action around the net and forcing PCM into some frustrating mistakes. The Wildcats fell behind early in two of the three sets, but in the end, none of the contests were very highly contested as the Wildcats completed the three-set sweep 25-13, 25-12 and 25-18.
PCM first-year coach Mollie Keitges emphasized execution as her team’s downfall on Tuesday.
“We had a lot of hitting errors and too many missed serves. We just gave away a lot of points,” she said. “They are a nice team, but when you give them that many points — I was just told we had 14 hitting errors in the first game alone — it’s way too many mistakes on our end.”
The opening contest started with what would be a familiar sight on the night, a block at the net by Carlisle’s lanky senior Jenna Dille. An early kill by Kenzie Clark tied the score at one. The Wildcats then rolled off several points in a row due to a combination of solid strikes on their end and mishits by the Mustangs. A block at the net by senior Abbi Gilson stopped the bleeding to put the score at 7-4 in favor of the Wildcats.
That block spurred a rally from the Mustangs until an errant serve gave the Wildcats a 13-11 advantage. The Wildcats went on another big run until Courtney Van Houweling’s tip over the net made the score 17-12. A kill by Gilson kept the Mustangs in it at 18-13. However, Carlisle rolled off five straight points, which were mostly due to some errors on the home team’s end, and the first game ended 25-13.
Carlisle started the second set still on a roll. Clarke had a very nice dig early, but she had some bad luck as the ball flew into the net. A few wide kill attempts by the Mustangs put them behind 7-3. Gilson was blocked at the net on the next point, but she got a block of her own in to stop the skid at 9-4. An ace by Lexi Kain pulled the Mustangs within three points at 9-6, but the Wildcats rolled off another big rally, and the score was 17-9 seemingly within the blink of an eye.
Things were just not going the Mustangs’ way. A well executed tip attempt by Cassidy Van Veen was rejected at the net to put the Wildcats ahead 20-9. The set ended on yet another blocked tip at the net.
“Their blocks might have gotten us a little frustrated. We certainly weren’t shot-makers,” Keitges said. “We have got to be a little bit smarter with selection up there and not just go swinging away at every ball. We need to throw in roll shots and tips sometimes, we certainly didn’t do a good job of that the first game and a half. We got better towards the end.”
Easily the most contentious match of the night came on the third set. A couple quick kills by the Mustangs put them ahead 2-1. PCM fell behind 5-3, but a block at the net by Gilson followed by a couple of strong serves put PCM ahead 8-7. Van Houweling’s tip tied the set up at 10. After a couple nice points by the Wildcats, Kain’s spike brought the score to 14-12 in favor of the Wildcats. The Mustangs had some shots fall wide, putting the score at 20-15. A tip by Van Veen followed by an ace by Gilson made the score 20-17.
Another kill by Van Houweling brought the Mustangs to within two, but the Wildcats would shut the door from then on, winning 25-18.
At times, the Mustangs struggled on in-between balls. Coach Keitges emphasized the team’s communication as something that must improve.
“We definitely have talked and communicated much stronger in practice to this point. So, I don’t know if it was game jitters or what. It certainly wasn’t our best team effort. That will come with playing together a little more and playing with confidence,” she said.
“They’re learning a lot of new things this year, and they’re playing a different defense than they’ve played before. Hopefully, that comes along, but we don’t have a lot of time to wait on that one. It’s frustrating because we control our communication. So, that’s something they’re going to have to figure out quickly.”
Gilson and Van Houweling tied for the team lead with six kills apiece. Kain was second on the team with four kills. Van Veen and Ashley Van Gorp both had two kills. Clarke had one kill. Emma Williams led the Mustangs with eight assists. She was followed by Van Veen, who had seven assists. Megan Winegar had three assists. Emily Hugen, Katie VandeWall and Gilson each had one assist. Van Houweling was 9-for-9 serving. Williams landed all of her six serves. Winegar and Gilson were both 6-for-7 serving, with Gilson landing an ace.