EDGINGTON — Both the Fulton and Rockridge volleyball teams brought solid records into Wednesday night's Three Rivers West Division opener, but the Rockets had the edge in terms of momentum.
While Fulton had not played a match in just over a week, Rockridge had won nine of its last 10 and was coming off both a third-place finish at last weekend's Macomb Tournament and a straight-set sweep of Galva the previous evening.
However, the Steamers showed no ill effects of their lengthy layoff. Although the Rockets grabbed leads early in both of Wednesday's sets, Fulton used its formidable front line to fuel decisive runs in a 25-20, 25-19 sweep to remain undefeated at 5-0.
"We hadn't had a match in over a week, and we were coming into our first conference match knowing Rockridge was a good team, and that they were going to be very competitive," said Fulton coach Stacy Germann. "In the first set, Rockridge was on fire, but I was happy with the way my girls stepped up."
Led by the trio of setter Nicole Sedam (15 assists) and hitters Olivia Drish (six kills, five digs) and Mackenzie Douglas (five kills), the Rockets were indeed red-hot, rolling to a 7-4 lead to open the match.
After that, though, the Steamers settled down and tied the hosts five times before going up 14-13 on an Emily Schipper kill. That triggered an 8-2 run that gave Fulton a 22-16 lead and control of the opening set.
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"We were definitely playing some intimidated volleyball at some points, and we shouldn't be doing that," said Rockridge coach Candy Lopez, whose club is now 11-4. "We were having a difficult time with our passing, which is not normal with our team. You can't do much else when you can't pass."
Nonetheless, Rockridge led 6-4 early in the second set when Fulton appeared to catch a bad break when senior outside hitter Maddie Hodge rolled her left ankle and had to leave. Instead, the Steamers caught fire and reeled off four consecutive points.
The Rockets battled back to forge a pair of ties before Fulton rattled off six straight for a 15-9 lead. Rockridge tried to rally, closing the gap to 16-15, but could not overtake a Steamer club led by the front-line trio of Schipper (12 kills, five digs, three blocks), Megan Bailey (seven kills) and Lily Eagle (four kills, two blocks).
"All three of us are really tall (each 5-foot-11), which helps a lot," said Schipper, whose efforts were aided by Kylee Collachia's 20 assists. "We knew this was going to be a tough match, but we knew we could do it. Kylee does a good job; we know each other and the way we play, and the tempo is there."
While Fulton left with the victory, the Rockets left knowing what parts of their game need to be fine-tuned moving forward.
"We know," said Lopez, "what we need to go back and work on."