CHARLESTON — A few weeks ago, the Charleston volleyball team pushed Mattoon in one of its better matches this season. Mattoon came away with the win, but Charleston coach Justin Tomaska liked the progress his team showed that night.
Tomaska is still waiting to see that progress. Since that match, the Lady Trojans haven’t played with the same swagger. Instead of growing from the match, their confidence took a hit with the loss.
That trend continued on Thursday when Charleston hosted Lincoln. The Railsplitters grabbed an early lead in the first set for a 25-16 win, and then a big run in the second set gave Lincoln the sweep with a 25-18 victory.
“Ever since that Mattoon match, I think that hurt a lot of girls’ confidence. We just have to build that back up and do whatever we can to get back to that level and above that level,” Tomaska said. “Right now it’s too much hesitating, and I don’t know if it’s lack of confidence or if it just hurt them that much, that loss. But we have to recover from that.”
There’s not much time left for Charleston to rediscover its swagger. The Lady Trojans are at a tournament this weekend and then have two home matches left in the regular season before Class 3A regionals start.
Tomaska said he told the girls that he believes in them.
“I told them they are out there for a reason. I know they can make the play, but right now it’s just the mental toughness part and not believing in themselves,” Tomaska said. “I’ve seen them make the plays and that’s what I keep on telling them, I know they can do it. Just don’t think about it so much, have fun and enjoy the game. Don’t look so down and don’t let an error get to you so bad.”
Charleston fell to 6-17 overall and 1-10 in the Apollo Conference.
The Lady Trojans fell behind big in the first set as Lincoln opened with a 10-2 run. Lincoln built a 17-6 lead when Charleston started to string some points together. The Lady Trojans went on a 4-1 run to make it 18-10, but Charleston didn’t get any closer than eight points in the first set as Lincoln went on to win 25-16.
Charleston held a slight early lead in the second set with a 6-5 lead when Lincoln got the next three points and the Railsplitters went on an 11-2 run for a 16-8 run.
Lincoln had a 22-12 lead when Charleston called a timeout. The Lady Trojans showed some signs of life with a 6-2 run to make it 24-18, but Lincoln got a kill to end the match.
“I just told them to show that they can play with them,” Tomaska said. “They played with (Lincoln) last time we played them. Fight for it a little bit and show them you are not going to lay down to them. They responded well to it, just a little too late.”