MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. -- It was all smiles at Mount Carmel High School on Wednesday night, with the school honoring cancer survivors in their Block Out Cancer night. Following the ceremony, the varsity volleyball team took to the court and played arguably their best game of the season, defeating Grayville in straight sets.
In honor of the survivors, it was a "pink out" theme for the Aces students, as well as athletes and coaches from both teams donning pink shirts and accessories such as headbands, shoe laces and more.
Once the game began, it immediately just felt different with coach Kelsey Beckerman's team, they seemed to be playing very aggressive and making nice digs and spikes, mixed with very few hitting mistakes. Assisted by their strong play, they took an early 8-5 lead, but allowed a 3-0 run to tie the game. Coach Beckerman called a timeout to settle her team and they really responded.
After the timeout, the Lady Aces (8-12) allowed Grayville to take a 11-9 lead, but then sizzled their way to a dominant 12-0 run, with sophomore Allie McPherson serving for the run. McPherson caused problems for the Bison, who tried to organize their return of the sophomore's serve. McPherson accumulated three of her team-high six aces over the course of the run.
"We talked about that all season, when teams are going on stretches and we feel like we're down, we haven't been able to really do that to other teams," Coach Beckerman said. "We've seen bits and pieces of it, but tonight like you said, for Allie to serve as many as she did and us to be able to play out as many as we did, because not all of those are her aces. I was just super impressed because that's the mental side of the game, to be able to go on runs when normally we're on the opposite end of that, to be able to do that to other teams is good as a coach to see that, but for the girls to see, hey, we can do this."
Subsequently, Mount Carmel cruised to the set victory following the explosive run, winning the first set in a surprisingly dominant 25-16 win.
In the second set their energy, communication and high level of play continued. Their lead would reach as high as seven en route to a 25-20 second set victory and match win.
The impressive part of the match -- the quality of play that the Lady Aces sustained against a high quality opponent -- The Bison entered the match 12-3, having defeated Cisne and Fairfield, a pair of teams that Mount Carmel has lost to previously.
"For us to be able to come out like this and play the way we did and not let up," Coach Beckerman spoke of her Lady Aces. "There was not a point in the match where I was at all nervous, even in that second set when they started to make a little run, I was like, we're fine. The way we played defensively, we were getting hands up for the block and when we weren't able to get that, we were in the back row exactly where we needed to be. Passing was on, hitting was on, we were just doing everything that we needed to be doing, which is a good time to be doing this because we have regional soon."
Their level of play was exemplified as you take a deeper dive into the statistics, to see how well-rounded the Aces performed. McPherson added six kills to go with her six aces, junior Kassidy Drone added 17 assists, sophomore McKenna Golden and junior Madeline Goldman each had a pair of blocks and junior Addie Drone added 12 digs and senior Carli Morris had 10. A. Drone had a tough assignment, but had some superb digs off emphatic spikes from Grayville junior Sidney Foster.
Following their emphatic victory, they have the Edwards County Tournament looming on Saturday, Oct. 13. The tournament will guarantee the Lady Aces five games, three of them beginning at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon -- the first two against Richland County and Norris City. Coach Beckerman is assuredly hoping for a similar level of energy and dominant play in Albion, Ill.
"If we come out and look like this, we can do some things," coach Beckerman said. "We can make ourselves known over there."
Their final home game of the season will come next Tuesday, Oct. 16 against Red Hill beginning at 6:15 p.m. A game in which they'll honor senior Carli Morris.