• Val T.

Pioneer drops first set, rallies to beat Caston in 4

Cripe: 16 kills, 27 digs for Lady Panthers


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

FULTON –- An epic game of rock-paper-scissors broke out between the student sections during the volleyball match between Pioneer and host Caston Thursday.

The match between the Hoosier North and sectional rivals also turned into a highly contested contest before Pioneer subdued the Lady Comets 24-26, 25-16, 25-20, 25-18.

Hailey Cripe led Pioneer with 16 kills and 27 digs. Brooklyn Borges had 10 kills, and Mandee Weisenburger had six. Mackenzie Robinson led Pioneer with 35 digs.

The Lady Panthers, who were coming off a road win over Culver on Tuesday, improved to 14-6, 3-0.

Maddi Smith had 14 kills, 27 digs and 10 serves received for Caston (10-10, 2-1 Hoosier North). Isabel Scales, another six-rotation player, had 10 kills, 12 digs and 18 serves received. Delaney Lowry had 19 assists, and Annie Harsh added 11. Addison Zimpleman starred in the back row with 19 digs and 25 serves received.

After evening the match in the second set, Pioneer then scored the first five points in the third set behind Borges’ serving and never trailed.

A five-point Caston run forced Pioneer coach Rod Nies into calling timeout at 18-16, and Caston eventually got within 19-18 after Cripe missed an attack long.

But Scales missed wide left, and Keirsten Nies’ service winner made it 21-19. At 22-20, Caston committed three straight errors – a double-hit on Harsh, an errant Smith attack from the back row and a Bailey Harness kill error long – to end the set and give Pioneer a 2-1 lead.

Pioneer led 17-15 in the fourth set before going on a 6-1 run. Cripe had a kill off the Caston block, Mandee Weisenburger had a kill, Cripe had a service winner, and Smith put a back row kill try into the net.

Historically, the rivalry has favored Pioneer for a generation. Still, coach Nies acknowledged that Caston is a difficult foe at home.

“We knew we were going to be in for a battle,” coach Nies said. “It was their Pink Out night, and they’re always jacked up to play us. And like I told my girls, I said we’re the defending state champs, and we’re going to get everybody’s best shot. Anyone and everyone is wanting to beat us.”

Caston coach Melinda Shultz said Pioneer didn’t intimidate her team. She also said they were not satisfied with winning just a set.

“We were just like, ‘Hey, we don’t have anything to lose. We’re not going to play scared. We’re going to play aggressive,’” Shultz said. “And the points will fall where they fall. …But I will say that Comet volleyball is not the Comet volleyball of the past. And we are not just OK with winning a set. Our goal was to come out and to beat them. And when we talked over here after the game, we talked about what we learned because we plan on facing them in sectionals and what we’re going to change to follow through on winning more than one set. Winning three sets. And so, it’s just a mentality of the girls, and they’re not happy with just being competitive.”

Nies said he limited his substitutions for this match, especially at the defensive specialist spot. He said he’s wanting to increase the confidence and cohesiveness levels among his players heading toward the postseason.

Asked to describe the cohesiveness between his multiple setters – Keirsten Nies, Blair Grigsby and Mackenzie Rogers all see time at the spot – and his hitters, coach Nies called it “sporadic.”

“We just happened to win the turnover – the hitting error and service error battles,” coach Nies said. “That’s one of the reasons why we were able to pull out and get a little bit of a comfortable lead and get the win.”

Shultz thought Pioneer’s serving strategy was effective.

“I feel like they started to target some of our key hitters to take them out or slow them down a little bit,” Shultz said. “So they were serving at Isabel Scales and Maddi Smith a little bit in an effort to try and slow them down a step. They just started to make more adjustments, like the quicks to the middle. They were able to run that play more and weren’t able to do much to defend that.”

Pioneer def. Caston, 24-26, 25-16, 25-20, 25-18

PIONEER STATS

Blair Grigsby – 1 ace, 6 assists, 3 digs; Carlie Morris – 2 aces, 9 digs; Emma Novaski – 1 ace, 12 digs; Keirsten Nies – 3 aces, 1 block, 6 assists, 3 digs; Mackenzie Rogers – 3 aces, 4 kills, 24 assists, 10 digs; Mackenzie Robinson – 1 ace, 1 assist, 35 digs; Belle Blickenstaff – 2 kills, 1 block, 7 digs; Brooklyn Borges – 10 kills, 3 blocks, 1 dig; Hailey Cripe – 16 kills, 27 digs; Kennedy Corn – 3 kills, 4 blocks, 5 digs; Mandee Weisenburger – 6 kills, 1 dig; Addie Cripe – 1 dig; Kaitlin Weldy – 1 dig

CASTON STATS

Bailey Harness – 1 kill, 3 aces, 1 block, 4 digs, 7 serves received; Maddi Smith – 14 kills, 1 ace, 1 block, 27 digs, 1 assist, 10 serves received; Abby Williamson – 8 kills, 4 blocks; Isabel Scales – 10 kills, 12 digs, 18 serves received; Delaney Lowry – 2 kills, 2 blocks, 7 digs, 19 assists, 14 serves received; Addison Zimpleman – 1 ace, 19 digs, 1 assist, 25 serves received; Annie Harsh – 1 ace, 5 digs, 11 assists; Macee Hinderlider – 1 block, 1 dig, 1 assist, 5 serves received


Watch entire match here:

https://team1sports.com/RTCtv4/?B=290626

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