MOUNT CARMEL -- Mount Carmel Head Volleyball Coach Kelsey Beckerman had been eager to see her group play in front of their hometown fans in the friendly confines of the Hilltop. She got her wish, and was able to see just how successful her group can be in front of a friendly crowd.
A host of Mount Carmel High School students dressed in a country attire dress theme were in the stands to cheer on the Lady Aces in their home opener, who dominated Richland County in the first set to setup a straight sets (25-12, 25-21) victory over the Lady Tigers on Thursday night.
Mount Carmel had a few spurts where they showed their ability to impose their will on foes, with a couple lengthy runs highlighting the first set. Richland County Head Volleyball Coach Emily Rusk was forced to call a pair of timeouts to try to settle her girls -- to no avail in the first half.
The Lady Aces (6-2) continued their dominance, paving way to a dominant 25-12 opening set victory.
"I think that was what the girls were most looking forward to in being back at the high school," Beckerman spoke of her team. "Being able to prove to ourselves that we can handle a team like that and put them away like we did in the first set."
Heading into the second set, Richland County seemed like an entirely different team. The Lady Tigers (1-2) had showcased their ability to block at the net, as well as sound defense in digging Mount Carmel spikes.
After a sluggish start for Mount Carmel, Beckerman called a timeout to settler her girls, who were adjusting to the Lady Tigers' newfound energy and trailed 10-7 in the second set. Her group responded to the timeout, with an 8-3 run allowing the Lady Aces to reclaim the lead and force a Richland County run. Senior Madeline Goldman scored a nice kill over the course of the run, and junior Allie McPherson secured an ace and a kill as well.
The two teams were now entrenched in a battle for the set, with neither side giving in. With the score at 20-20, a Richland County hitting error allowed Mount Carmel to secure a narrow 21-20 lead, which seemed to be a momentum shift in Mount Carmel's favor as the end neared.
Lady Ace junior McKenna Golden followed that error with a kill, and the pressure was continued by junior Taya York, who scored a kill to put the team ahead 23-20. A Richland County hitting error and errant serve accounted for the two remaining points in the set, as Mount Carmel secured the victory in straight sets.
Richland County had troubles with their serve receive and Mount Carmel exploited it accordingly. The Lady Aces totaled eight aces in the match, with senior Kassidy Drone, senior Jessica Wall, and McPherson all tied with two for the team lead.
In kills Goldman and McPherson led the way, with Goldman recording seven and McPherson spiking seven. Kassidy Drone led assists, as the Aces calming presence on offense atypically does, racking up 18 assists in the game. Goldman and senior Addie Drone excelled in keeping balls alive as well, with Goldman recording a team-high 11 digs, and Drone recording eight in the victory.
Beckerman said her group's communication kind of fell off in the second set, allowing Richland County to take advantage of some opportunities and rack up some kills they otherwise may have not gotten. They've shown the ability to put together a complete set, now if they can put together two complete sets, they could continue to ascend toward their high ceiling.
"Communication just kind of fell off. It wasn't like we weren't talking to each other, but it was like we weren't calling what plays we were going to run," Beckerman said. "The before hand stuff was fine, it was kind of just the in play stuff, the communication wasn't quite where it needed to be. I think if we can fix that, we can fix a lot there for that second set. . . . We'll be able to go back on film and see where we're making more errors or things like that. Just so that moving forward we're not letting teams creep back in. Just put them away again."
With the victory Mount Carmel improves to 6-2 on the season, a considerable improvement over last year's 4-4 start, which later tumbled against Big Eight play. Fortunately for this group, they no longer have the restraints of a full fledged schedule from their since-disbanded conference, making the likelihood of a similar struggle highly unlikely.
Beckerman said her group's ecstatic with the start they've had. Though they haven't said it outside the locker room, they surely have postseason aspirations this season.
"It's super exciting and the girls feel it," Beckerman spoke of Mount Carmel's 6-2 start. "They know they're capable of doing something and making a name for ourselves, so they're really excited to do that and I'm excited for them."
The Lady Aces will return to action on Monday (Sept. 9), when they host Wayne City in just their second home match of the season. The JV team will kickstart the night at 6 p.m., with the varsity to follow shortly afterwards.