ELDRIDGE — With top-ranked North Scott clinging to a 15-13 lead in the first set of Tuesday’s Mississippi Athletic Conference volleyball match against visiting Davenport Central and needing a spark, setter Nora Ralfs provided it.
The Lancers came out of a timeout, and Rolfs quickly tipped the ball over for a point. On the next point, she spiked down a kill to give North Scott some breathing room, and the Lancers won 25-16, 25-16, 25-18 at The Pit.
“I just didn’t really want it to be close,” said Ralfs, who had 11 assists in the victory. “I knew that we were better than that and we had to go. If no one else was going to do it, I was going to do it.”
Davenport Central’s Kate Ebeling came up with a block that pulled the Blue Devils (1-7, 0-3 MAC) within 15-13 and forced North Scott head coach Tara VanEarwage to call timeout. During the break in the action, the coach implored her team to find a bit more energy.
“I think we were just waiting for them to make mistakes instead of just capitalizing and earning our own,” VanEarwage said. “I think we were just a little quiet out there. I think we were kind of depending on the crowd to give us some energy. So we just had to step back and focus on ourselves and what we were doing. After that timeout, they definitely went out there firing.”
The Blue Devils were still hanging around late in the first set, but behind a serving run by Ella McLaughlin, the Lancers scored the final five points to take a 25-16 win. McLaughlin was a perfect 29-for-29 serving on the night with a pair of aces, and she also had long serving runs in the second and third sets that got North Scott (14-3, 3-1 MAC) out to early leads.
“She was kind of having a serving clinic back there,” VanEarwage said of McLaughlin. “She was hitting the spots we were asking her to.”
North Scott took big leads in both the second set (22-11) and the third set (23-10), but the Blue Devils showed no quit.
“We’ve been focusing on being tenacious,” Davenport Central head coach Laura Guttmann said. “That’s kind of like our word.”
Delaney Graves had nine kills to lead the Blue Devils. Noelle Smith had five kills and a pair of blocks, and Morgan Barker had four kills. Lily Campbell had 19 assists.
Even though her team lost its fourth straight match, Guttman was proud of how her team played on the road against a highly ranked opponent.
“I’m really proud and impressed,” she said. "They were really ready to fight. That’s the best we’ve done all season. We kept our energy up. We were able to execute a lot more things than we have in the previous two games. I’m really proud of the improvement so far.”
Alexis Richards had eight kills to lead North Scott, which won its seventh straight match. McLaughlin and Grace Graham added six kills apiece, and Graham had three blocks. Alyssa Atzen had 13 assists on the night.
North Scott’s players wore black T-shirts with orange lettering in pregame warmups to show support for senior middle hitter Scout Kirshy and her father, Rich. Rich was recently diagnosed with leukemia.
"It’s a really good cause,” VanEarwage said. “It’s something he’s battling right now. To have Scout come into the gym every day with that in the back of her mind and give all she can, I have such respect for her and her entire family.”
The Lancers were pleased to pick things up after a slow start and hold off the pesky Blue Devils.
"Everyone’s out to beat us. We know that,” Ralfs said. “We just can’t let teams sneak up on us.”