Hughes it or lose it: Senior’s serving runs set tone in Rochester sweep of Maconaquah
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Rochester senior volleyball player Lexy Thomas smiled when asked about having to face teammate Emily Hughes’ serve during drills in practice.
All the troubles that it gives her in front of a paying audience of zero was felt by visiting Maconaquah at the RHS gym Tuesday.
Hughes went on an 18-point serving run in Game 1 and another nine-point run in Game 3 as the Lady Zs went on to beat the Lady Braves 25-7, 25-21, 25-18 for their third straight win.
“Every single time she serves, I’m like, ‘Oh my God,’” Thomas said. “Her serve is killer. You never know when it’s going to drop, if it’s going to spin, if it’s not going to spin. It’s just deadly. Nobody can get it. … She’s so... amazing.”
Rochester is 6-11 overall and 3-2 in the Three Rivers Conference. Maconaquah fell to 4-8, 2-4.
Rochester trailed 5-4 in Game 1 when Maconaquah’s Averi Miller missed a serve long.
Then Hughes took over behind the line. Taylor Roesler missed on a kill try. Rochester’s Kylie Coleman put down a kill off the Maconaquah block. Then came a Thomas kill. Then came a Hughes ace. Then came another Hughes ace off the net. A Coleman kill followed. Then came a Hughes service winner.
Suddenly down 12-5, Maconaquah called timeout. It didn’t stop the momentum.
Kennedy Leap’s free ball turned into a kill. Brionna Jernagan missed on a kill try for the Lady Braves. Then came another Hughes ace. Maconaquah’s Emma Klepinger put a kill try into the net. Then came another Hughes service winner.
Maconaquah called their second timeout. It was 17-5.
Then came another Roesler kill error long and a Jernagan kill try into the net. Then Thomas put down another kill. Hughes had another ace. A well-placed Coleman roll shot and a Maconaquah botched set made it 23-5 before Hughes finally put a serve into the net to stop the 19-0 run.
Final totals on the run: four Hughes aces, two more service winners and several more serves which caused Miller, Maconaquah’s senior setter, to move way off the net to hustle down misplaced passes.
“I had even said, ‘All we're doing is trading serves. Let’s go,’” Rochester coach Erin Leap said. “It was good. … It was unexpected, and I knew they were going to turn around. That’s not the team we were going to see in the second set.”
In fact, Maconaquah went on a three-point run to tie it at 17 in the second set before a Roesler serve error, a Lilly Maple kill error into the net and a Thomas stuff block gave Rochester a 20-17 lead.
At 22-20, Kennedy Leap won a joust at the net, and Maple missed on an attack from the back row. Two points later, Leap finished off the set with a kill.
Rochester fell behind 5-0 in Game 3, but Hughes had two more aces as part of a 9-0 run as the Lady Zs took a 13-7 lead.
A Coleman ace, a Leap kill and a Thomas stuff block capped off another five-point run as the lead reached 18-9.
Back-to-back Thomas kills, a Hughes kill, a Hughes tip and a Miller serve error on match point ended it.
Meanwhile, Kylie Houston had a team-high 14 digs and 18 serves received, a performance which caused Thomas to call her “immaculate” and “the best passer in the state.”
“Our diggers were ready to read and move,” coach Leap said. “They just kept everything off the floor. It was a good digging night.”
Rochester has won three straight matches, all in conference, since a six-match losing streak. The genesis of the turnaround was a meeting in Thomas’ car after a loss at Manchester on Sept. 14.
“We had a come-to-Jesus meeting, let me tell you,” Thomas said. “After we got off the bus, the four seniors, we got in my car, and we were in there for an hour going over what we needed to work on, things we can do better. … And so then we went in on Wednesday and before practice, we went into the locker room going over with the entire team, ‘This is what we have to do.’
“The main thing was confidence and keeping each other up,” Thomas continued. “Mistakes are like, ‘Hey, you’re fine, shake it off. You can pass that ball.’ The main thing we’ve been working on is definitely confidence.”
Rochester def. Maconaquah, 25-7, 25-21, 25-18
Kylie Coleman – 5 kills, 1 ace, 2 digs; Lexy Thomas – 6 kills, 3 blocks, 2 digs, 4 serves received; Kennedy Leap – 7 kills, 2 blocks, 3 digs; Emily Hughes – 9 kills, 7 aces, 1 block, 4 digs; Audrey Bolinger – 1 kill, 1 dig; Alexa Kouskousakis – 2 blocks, 15 digs, 25 assists; Rily Holloway – 9 digs, 1 assist, 3 serves received; Kenzie Bradley – 2 digs, 5 serves received; Emma Sells – 7 digs, 4 serves received; Kylie Houston – 14 digs, 18 serves received; Lillee Lett – 1 dig, 2 serves received
Watch entire Match Here:
Emily Hughes Kylie Houston