MATTOON -- Mount Zion coach Jay McAtee thought his team came out too hyped for the match against Mattoon on Thursday. The Green Wave took advantage.
Mattoon coach Mark Jackley thought his team got caught in one bad rotation at times on Thursday. The Braves took advantage.
The two situations played out differently during Thursday’s match. After Mount Zion settled down and caught Mattoon in a rough rotation, the Braves went on to win the first set 25-16.
Once again in the second set, Mount Zion recovered after a rough start and caught Mattoon in a bad rotation to take the lead. But this time Mattoon battled back and forced set point. But the Braves came back and got a few big kills from Dayna Kennedy to complete the 29-27 win.
In each set, Mattoon started with a 10-4 lead, but in each set, Mount Zion went on a run from that point to take the lead.
“Our first three rotations have been strong all season. What has hurt us in some of our losses is our last three (rotations) and that’s what we’ve got to get better at,” Jackley said. “We know exactly what to work on. Really one rotation was probably the deciding factor in both sets. At least we know that going into the regional and we have two weeks to get that ironed out.”
McAtee thought his team was “overly-hyped up” for the match.
“I don’t know whether they went to Starbucks or what before the match, but they were as amped up as I’ve seen them and I think they were a little too amped up,” McAtee said. “They just weren’t in system, the offense really wasn’t flowing like it normally does. I took a timeout, settled them down and they got rolling and clicking.”
The win gives Mount Zion at least a share of the Apollo Conference title since Mattoon was sitting a match back coming into Thursday. Now the Braves have a two-match cushion.
“Mattoon is a good team and we’ve had good fortune against them the last three years, but they are an extremely talented team,” McAtee said. “It was just a fun match to coach. Those are the matches that we need, along with Mattoon, to get ready for regionals. The Apollo is the toughest conference in Central Illinois. There’s no nights off. So to at least share a piece of the conference championship for the third year in a row was on the girls minds tonight.”
Mattoon falls to 20-7 and 7-3 in the Apollo Conference. Even though the Green Wave were swept, the match was an improvement over the past two times Mattoon played Mount Zion, which earned the top seed in the sub-sectional. Mattoon earned the No. 3 seed.
“We played good volleyball and Mount Zion is the number one seed in our sectional and we jump out early in both of them and are dictating the tempo,” Jackley said. “We get out of system a bit, in that one rotation especially, make a couple of attack errors and we just have to keep the ball in play. Tonight, that second set should be a huge confidence booster, even though we lost, that we can play with what I consider probably the best team in this area.”
Mattoon jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the first set when McAtee called a timeout. Mount Zion got a kill from Karlee McAtee and it started a 15-0 run for the Braves as they went up 19-10 and cruised to a 25-16 win.
Mattoon jumped out to a 10-4 lead again in the second set when three straight errors started a Mount Zion run. This time it was a 10-0 run for a 14-10 Mount Zion lead, but Morgan Otto stopped the run with a kill and Jo Hite had back-to-back aces to keep Mattoon in the set and the match.
“At least in the second set, we didn’t allow that one rotation to get out of control,” Jackley said. “It gave us a chance to come back. We will take positives out of the match, but we have work to do defensively. We can be a great team, it’s just a matter of taking care of some minor things.”
The set remained close and Mattoon took a 21-20 lead. Mount Zion tied the set at 22 when Mattoon won the next two points for a 24-22 lead.
An attack error kept Mount Zion alive and Kennedy put down a kill to tie it at 24.
Abe Lee put Mattoon up by one with a kill when Kennedy countered with another kill. Mount Zion went up 26-25. Mattoon tied the set at 26 and 27 before Kennedy put down another kill and McAtee followed with a kill for the 29-27 win.
“Dayna just plays like she practices, all out all of the time,” McAtee said. “That was Ali Vaughn’s best game I’ve ever see her play. Her defense was on, her sets were on. She was excellent. Our passing and Ali’s setting makes this whole machine go.”
Mattoon won the junior varsity match 25-20, 15-25, 25-23 to improve to 12-4. Grace McDowell had 10 kills and 12 digs and Jordan Sapp had 20 assists.
Mattoon tied in the freshman match 27-25, 18-25 and is 8-3-4 on the season. Morgan Weaver had 3 assists and Kendra Bialeschki had 10 digs.