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  • Val T.

Lady Zs win first set, but Manchester comes back to win in 4

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

NORTH MANCHESTER — The Rochester volleyball team showed improvement against host Manchester Tuesday after going 0-4 at the Harrison (West Lafayette) Invitational Saturday.

But the Lady Squires, relying on middle hitter McKelvey Espeset and a defense that refused to allow a ball hit their side of the floor in the final two sets, bounced back after dropping the first set to beat the Lady Zs 21-25, 25-23, 25-8, 25-7.

Rochester fell to 2-14 overall and 1-3 in the Three Rivers Conference. The Lady Zs have another conference match at home against Northfield at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Espeset crunched 19 kills and added five blocks, burying overpasses and attacking the middle of the Rochester defense. Manchester also had 13 aces as a team, including five from libero Paxton Baker.

That helped stifle a strong first set from the Lady Zs that included attacks from Audrey Bolinger out of the middle.

“What I liked about the first set is that we played to win,” Rochester first-year coach Laneia Strasser said. “We passed the ball well. Our hitters hit the ball well. We were in system. They just played to win versus playing to not lose.”

Strasser said she was still optimistic after dropping the second set.

“It was exciting to actually go more than three sets tonight,” Strasser said. “I was optimistic they didn’t look as defeated in their faces, so I was optimistic that set three was going to go our way, especially when we started to get a little bit of a run. But in set three, it was disappointing that they let them get ahead by so many.”

Strasser took some of the blame herself. She said that tactically, they needed to pull another blocker over to try and bother Espeset.

“Their middle really started connecting really good, and we tried to adapt and pull our left front over to help block with those, and that’s an experience thing,” Strasser said. “I should have done it sooner. That’s my fault. I should have pulled her over sooner to help block that middle when she was going on some good runs.

“But also sometimes, it’s on the girls. You know, they have to understand the situation and the flow of it. You see a girl that’s dominating you, and our middle needs to be saying, ‘Come block that with me.’ So I put it on me mainly but them too, and our coverage tonight wasn’t there. We were there, but we weren’t going for the ball. We were getting blocks like crazy, and we just weren’t going for the ball.”

Strasser also complimented Manchester on their defense as they gave the Lady Zs few clean looks at the net and left the baseline unsullied.

“They’re a very aggressive defensive team,” Strasser said. “That’s what we aspire to be, and that’s what we preach all the time, but that’s a want-to. We do all the right drills with them in practice to get them to be that team. It’s when you get tired and you get out here and you’re under the pressure of winning a game, then you can’t fold and not be a relentless defensive team, and they were, and we just weren’t.”

Strasser said the team struggled with serve-receive at the Harrison Invitational, perhaps the toughest single-day tournament on the Rochester schedule. She said it seemed like they were out of system during losses to Benton Central, Danville, Lowell and Covington more than they were in system.

But she also said that it’s a learning process for younger hitters like sophomores Avarie Montel, Ella Hake and Darah Strasser and freshman Brailyn Hunter. Aubrey Wilson, a freshman setter, is feeding them.

“We struggled with serve-receive and struggled with hitting,” coach Strasser said. “I don’t have a lot of experience in my front row. I play a lot of younger girls up there that haven’t had a lot of varsity time, and that was very, very obvious at Harrison. … They’ll get there. We have to keep trusting the process. They have to keep listening and swinging hard and not timid in a varsity game. Because a lot of them try to play it safe and not swing hard, and that doesn’t really work.”

Manchester def. Rochester, 21-25, 25-23, 25-8, 25-7

ROCHESTER STATS

Rylee Clevenger – 1 kill, 4 digs, 1 assist, 30 serves received; Darah Strasser – 5 kills, 1 ace, 12 digs, 1 assist, 24 serves received; Aubrey Wilson – 3 kills, 2 aces, 7 digs, 10 assists; Avarie Montel – 2 kills, 1 block; Mia Howdeshell – 3 kills, 10 digs, 5 serves received; Audrey Bolinger – 1 kill, 2 aces, 3 digs, 2 assists; Logyn Honkomp – 9 digs, 8 serves received; Brailyn Hunter – 1 dig; Ella Hake – 1 dig; Rilyn Strasser – 1 dig; Keyton Doran – 1 dig, 2 serves received

JV: Manchester def. Rochester, 25-19, 25-15


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