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ANNAWAN — After losing in three sets to Mercer County at last Saturday's Orion Charger Challenge, the Annawan volleyball team was motivated to do much better when it counted for more.

Looking to move up the ladder in a tight Lincoln Trail Conference race, the Bravettes came out a much different team Monday night, setting the tone with some dominant front-row play as they swept the Golden Eagles 25-18, 25-12 to move into third place in the LTC.

Now 4-1 in the league, Annawan (13-10) could have tied United for second place behind LTC-leading Princeville, but the Red Storm swept West Central 25-21, 25-21 on Monday. The loss drops Mercer County (17-10, 4-2) into fourth place in the conference.

"We talked about it in our pre-game, and we decided we needed to win this in two," said Annawan junior setter Courtney Baele. "Especially since we lost to them at Orion. We want to advance in the LTC and work towards a conference championship. That's our ultimate goal."

With Baele dishing out 19 assists to go with three aces and a pair of blocks, the Bravettes were able to make their presence felt at the net, especially the trio of Ella Manuel, Emily Miller and Keagan Rico.

Manuel collected a match-high nine kills and added eight digs, as did Rico, who notched five kills; Miller posted seven kills and also had three blocks.

"I feel like we work hard at it in practice, and it makes us feel better and strong as a team," Miller said of Annawan's front-line play. "At Orion this past weekend, we didn't play like ourselves. We wanted to come back a lot stronger."

In the opening game, the hosts grabbed a quick 6-3 lead, but the Golden Eagles settled down and tied the score three times before taking their first lead at 11-10. However, the Bravettes responded with an 8-1 run, then used a 5-1 spurt to take control after MerCo closed the gap to 18-14.

The second game was more one-sided, with Annawan getting out to an 8-1 start, then going on a run of eight straight points to take a commanding 16-3 lead. The Eagles could get no closer than 10 points after that.

"It was a hard loss, and a rough day (last Saturday), so it felt good to beat them," said Manuel. "We took the lead, and we kept it. When we get down, we get down on ourselves. Tonight is what we wanted."

For Mercer County, Karli Stineman had a solid all-around effort with 10 digs, seven kills and three blocks, with Ericka Sedam chipping in four kills and four blocks. Sheridan Hank added five assists and Bella Cuellar had seven digs.

However, the highlights ended up being too few and far between for MerCo coach Erica Biddle.

"We couldn't get anything started," she said. "That's what happens when you don't work together, and that definitely showed in the second game. We weren't aggressive with our hits when we should've been. If we don't play together, we're not going to go where we want to go."

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