DETROIT — The district tilt between the Detroit Lady Eagles and Rivercrest Lady Rebels started off with an exciting first set, which set the stage for a quality match. The teams battled it out to a fifth set, and the home team Lady Eagles got past Rivercrest at home by a final score of 25-27, 25-8, 25-14, 23-25 and 15-10.
“Our goal is to win district,” Detroit head volleyball coach Jeff Allensworth said. “This was a big game. Clarksville is a big game and James Bowie is a big game, so we are game to game. I don’t look ahead, we just try to win the one we play that night.”
Detroit held a slim lead for the first half of the first set, but Rivercrest rallied from a 15-10 deficit quickly. Lady Rebels senior outside hitter Maxie Alford blocked a kill attempt from talented Detroit senior middle blocker Britney Ricks to cut the deficit to 15-11. After another point from Rivercrest, Alford served and ace to trim the deficit to two points. Two errors from Detroit tied the set at 15-15.
Lady Eagles senior Kiley Miller put down a kill to give Detroit the lead back, but Rivercrest senior McKenzie Walton’s kill on the next point tied the set at 16-16. In the waning stages of the set, the score was 24-24, and Alford hammered home a kill to give Rivercrest the edge. The Lady Rebels had a hit in the net tie it for Detroit, but Rivercrest regrouped to score the next two points to take the set, which was ended by a tip from Lady Rebels senior setter Lexi Rushing. Detroit knew it needed to regroup, and did just that coming out of the gates and into the second set.
“We actually changed our libero’s rotation, she played for different people in the game,” Allensworth said. “We were just trying to be more consistent as well all around, which helped us. Alanna Harris coming back from a concussion helped us out a lot. She passed the ball well, too.”
The Lady Eagles controlled the next two sets in dominant fashion, winning the next two 25-8 and 25-14, respectively. It seemed to be more of the same in a potentially decisive fourth set as Detroit sprinted out to a 12-4 lead, but Rivercrest refused to go quietly. The Lady Rebels cut the deficit to 13-9 after a 5-1 spurt, but Detroit gained separation, getting out to a 19-12 lead, highlighted by kills from Ricks and Ayanna Smith. Rivercrest came charging back again, though.
Alford blocked Ricks again to make it 19-13, then an ace from Rushing and another kill from Alford trimmed the deficit to 19-15, forcing a Detroit timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Detroit got breathing room on a 3-1 run, highlighted by a big block from Ricks, to make it 22-16. A few points later, Detroit held a 23-18 lead, seeming to have the match in hand. However, Rivercrest had other ideas.
The Lady Rebels ended the set on a 7-0 run to steal the fourth set and force a sudden death fifth set. Both teams had to dig deep in the tight final set, but the veteran Lady Eagles squad was able to pull through, using all they’ve learned this season into action.
“We just talked each other up,” Lady Eagles senior setter Kaisen Eldridge said. “Our motto this year has kind of been, ‘So what? Next play.’ We can get scrappy when we have to, and that has helped a lot. We’ve introduced a lot of drills in practice that have helped us with blocking and getting to balls, which we wouldn’t have gotten to last year. Coming back against a team like that, who swept through our district last year, it’s been really good for us and it’s made us come together as a team. We have six seniors on varsity, so I feel like the bonding we’ve had the last couple of years has helped us pick each other up and be better teammates to each other.”
Along with the skills gained, Ricks, who starred with 12 kills, 4 blocks and 4 digs, knows where the strength of her game comes from.
“My confidence has grown a lot, mainly from my team because they always build me up,” Ricks said. “Even when I’m down, they are all building me up. If I’m getting down, I rely on my teammates to build me back up.”
As for the Lady Rebels, who dropped their third straight district contest, the effort and fight was there, but their head coach wants to see the positive aspects from their game against Detroit more consistently.
“I think the best thing we in the first, fourth and fifth sets were momentum, teamwork and really positive attitudes,” Rivercrest head volleyball coach Katelyn James said. “When we got in our slumps, we lost the momentum and good attitudes and seemed to just be giving it away to Detroit. Making those key plays and making sure we have all six players playing together works to our advantage, but we just can’t do it all the time.”
Eldridge helped fuel Detroit with 3 kills, 18 assists, 1 dig and 3 aces, while Jordan Williams had 10 digs, 1 kill and 2 aces. Kiley Miller totaled 6 kills and 5 digs, while Alanna Harris added 12 digs and 2 aces. Ayanna Smith recorded 3 kills and an ace, while Daysha Stature recorded 2 kills and 2 blocks.
Alford led the way for Rivercrest with 11 kills and 12 blocks, while Walton recorded 6 kills. Lindsey Anschutz had 5 kills and 2 blocks, while Kynzie Franks finished with 4 kills and 5 blocks. Madi Lichtenwalter tallied 3 kills and nearly 20 digs, while Rushing and Ashlin Johnson had 2 kills apiece.
The Lady Rebels are still looking to get into the postseason as they have done traditionally in recent years, so continuing to work will be crucial.
“I just want to see us work on our team work and energy,” James said. “We also have a player injured, who will hopefully recover by the end of the week to help us be even stronger than we are now heading into the second round of district. We just want to work on our hits, keeping them in bounds and being more consistent as we build off this game.”
The Lady Eagles go for another district win at 4:30 p.m. Friday at home against Clarksville, while the Lady Rebels aim to rebound at 4 p.m. Friday at Maud.
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 S5 F
Rivercrest: 27 8 14 25 10 2
Detroit: 25 25 25 23 15 3