HASTINGS — In a battle of top rated teams in Class C-2, No. 3 Hastings St. Cecilia’s offensive balance made the difference.
The Hawkettes came away with 62 kills in the match, helping them take a 25-16, 26-24, 21-25, 25-21 win over No. 1 Grand Island Central Catholic Thursday at St. Cecilia.
St. Cecilia had five players over eight kills with Tori Thomas leading the way with a match-high 20 kills while Katherine Hamburger and Makenna Asher each chipped in 11. Asher had in 31 assists, while Jill Parr added 15. The Hawkettes also had nine ace serves, while most of their serves had the Crusaders scrambling to get into their offense.
All that production pleased HSC coach Alan VanCura.
“All that hitting starts with the pass and the set and we did a good job of doing that, especially early on,” he said. “We’ve got some kids that can put the ball away and I think we got pretty good balance. We got a lot of options out there.
“And we’ve got some kids that can serve the ball pretty well.”
That offensive balance showed almost immediately in the opening set as the Hawkettes produced 18 kills, helping take the set easily.
“They kind of out-muscled us there in that opening set,” GICC coach Sharon Zavala said. “We had a hard time controlling them at the net. We really weren’t used to their pace yet. I thought that was the big difference in the match, especially early on.”
The Hawkettes continued that in the second set and looked like they were going to go ahead to a comfortable 2-0 lead in the match after taking a 22-14 lead.
But the Crusaders had different ideas. Avery Kalvoda, playing her first full match of the season after spraining her ankle last week, came up with a kill, then Lauryn Willman served seven straight points to even the match at 22-all.
But St. Cecilia never allowed GICC to take the lead after that. The two teams traded points the next two times, then after a Hamburger kill broke a 24-all tie, Thomas’ 13th termination gave the Hawkettes a 2-0 lead.
“Their comeback was because of our serve receive and their serving got going a little bit but we started tipping the ball and were soft tipping and that’s not going to get it done against a team like that,” VanCura said. “That was crucial for us in winning the match.”
GICC regrouped in the third set as Katie Maser served a 4-0 run to give them a 12-8 and grew to 20-15. The Crusaders got their passing going too as that helped get 12 kills and two ace serves, while St. Cecilia had eight hitting errors, including at set point.
Zavala made a switch with her lineup, moving 6-1 Chloe Cloud to match up with Thomas in the early stages. That seemed to work as Thomas only had three kills.
“We wanted Chloe on her so we moved her to the right side, even though she’s a middle hitter,” Zavala said. “We tried to stop her from going down line and that seemed to work for a bit there.”
Willman continued her strong serving in the fourth as she had two straight ace serves to give the Crusaders an early 15-10 lead.
But Thomas helped St. Cecilia get back into the match. She had a kill to start an 8-1 run. She had two kills, then served a 4-0 run for an 18-16 lead.
The lead grew from there as Thomas put the match away with a kill.
Even though the Hawkettes committed 22 hitting errors, VanCura said he pleased to the victory over the Crusaders, where the two teams could meet up four more times during the season. They are both in the Holdrege Tournament, the Centennial Conference Tournament and in the Class C-2, Subdistrict 9 Tournament.
“You know they aren’t going to go away, they are too good of a team,” VanCura said. “I know the kids were pumped to play this match. It’s a credit to our kids for playing a great match. We have a long way to go but it’s still a great win for us.”
Avery Kalvoda led the Crusaders with 15 kills, while freshman Gracie Woods had 13. Maser had 38 set assists. Kate McFarland led the defense with 28 digs.
Zavala said GICC can learn from the loss.
“This doesn’t really mean anything right now since we are real early in the season, but when you lose, you see what you have to improve on,” Zavala said. “A loss is good for you to sit back and reevaluate some things. It helps the kids focus a little bit more in practice but these kids have done a marvelous job in practice so far.”
GICC plays Sutton and Doniphan-Trumbull at the Sutton Triangular Sept. 12.