JOHNSONBURG – The Kane Lady Wolves gave the home team fits Thursday night in the serve-receive statistics category in a 3-1 (25-21, 25-17, 21-25, 25-12) win over the Johnsonburg Ramettes.
Kane had little trouble in the first two games against the Ramettes before a hiccup in the third game sidetracked the visitors. The Lady Wolves regrouped quickly, however, to clinch the decisive fourth game for the win.
"I think that when we play our best ball, we can definitely play with anybody but we don't always play as well as we should," said Kane head varsity volleyball coach Judy Kessler. "In game one, we get seven or eight to start off, then we allow the opposition to get right back in it. We did that in game two as well when we were up 14-6 and we allowed [Johnsonburg] to kind of get back into it. Game three, we never really got that drive. We had it tied late but we just weren't sticking our passes on serve-receives, and we were having trouble at the net hitting the ball right into the blocker.
"The ball tends to get behind our players sometimes so now their arms and heads are back, so they're not seeing the block right in front of them. We you have the blocker out-jumping the attacker, and her head's back, she can't move the ball around. We weren't putting the ball where we needed to put it and I don't really feel like we owned this match until the fourth game. We started off well but then that went away."
Kane jumped out to an early 8-0 lead in the first set before the Ramettes finally got on the board. Behind the serve of Emilee DeMay, Johnsonburg rattled off five straight points to cut the lead to just two.
A block up front by Johnsonburg senior middle-hitter Brittany Watts would cut the lead to one point before Kane got three service points from Shannon Kocjancic. A kill from Taylor Morgan increased the lead to 17-14 before the teams traded points to 20-17.
A kill from Johnsonburg junior middle-hitter Chelsea Benson trimmed the margin to two points but Kane would regroup to take five of the next eight points for the win. Kane answered a Benson ace with a block from senior standout Audrey Perry to push the lead back to two.
Another point from Perry put Kane back on track at 23-21 before a shot into the net gave the Lady Wolves game point. A block from Morgan Nicholson sealed the first set for Kane.
The Ramettes continued to experience issues with serve-receive as Nikki Sicher dominated at the line with two aces and a quick 7-2 advantage. Consecutive aces from Perry would later put the Lady Wolves ahead 14-6 and an ace from Nicholson had the lead to 10 points at 20-10.
Kane would take five of the next 12 points to hold off the home team to take the second set.
The Ramettes made a few adjustments for the third game and held a slim lead throughout the set.
With Perry serving and facing a two-point deficit, Perry rattled off three straight service points, including two aces, to take the lead. A kill from Benson stopped the bleeding and Johnsonburg sophomore outside-hitter Raimi Akers followed with consecutive aces to retake the lead at 19-18. Consecutive blocks from Benson would later give the home team a three-point cushion and a mishit from Shannon Kocjancic pushed Kane to the limit.
A kill from Nicholson halted the momentum but Benson came right back with a tip at the net to put the Ramettes on the brink at 24-20. A big kill from Kaila Jamerson halted Johnsonburg for a point before Watts landed a kill for a 25-21 win in the third game.
The fourth set, however, was rarely ever in doubt.
Kane jumped out to an early 7-2 lead as Jamerson made her presence known with two kills. Taylor Morgan followed with a kill of her own for Kane to take a 9-6 lead, followed by two straight tips at the net from Perry for a five-point lead.
Two consecutive Johnsonburg miscues pushed the Kane lead to 13-6 before Watts stepped in for a kill. Perry would right the ship again with a kill for a 14-8 advantage, then rattled off seven straight service points for a 21-8 lead.
After three straight errors from the Ramettes, Perry put down two consecutive aces and Nicholson came up with a big block for a the 21-8 margin before Perry put a serve in the net.
Johnsonburg had a spurt of four straight points down the stretch to cut the lead to 21-12 before an errant serve set the tone for Kane to finish the match.
"Volleyball is a funny game because it's all about momentum. We can be up by seven or eight and people might be thinking that it's time to substitute, but in a match like this, Johnsonburg is capable of playing well enough to make a comeback," Kessler said. "They're a scrappy team and don't give up on any balls. At that point, putting in substitutions changes the dynamics on the court and I only have a few players that don't play all the time.
"I utilize eight players and we have a small squad of 10 or 11 players. I substitute when I can but with the way that we were playing, we had to work out our chemistry and keep it once we got it."
A kill from Nicholson set the score at 23-12 and after a Ramette error at the net, Sicher cleaned it up with a kill for the victory.
Perry finished the game with 17 kills and seven aces.
"[Perry] is a leader and a turning point as she makes things happen," Kessler said.
Now 5-1 on the season, the Lady Wolves will turn their attention to Bradford on Tuesday,
"I really thought we'd be at this point this year, especially with chemistry as well," Kessler said. We have Bradford on Tuesday and they're flat-out phenomenal. They're fast and they've earned that because they work just about 12 months out of the year. We can't play on Tuesday on a roller coaster game. We have to be consistent and at the top of our game if we're going to give [Bradford] a game.
"If we can get them out of system, so to speak, then we may have a shot. When we do well, I'm really happy, when we don't, I know we're not perfect and that we'll make mistakes but we've been really focusing on striving to play best ball, just one ball at a time."
Johnsonburg, meanwhile, will return to the drawing board and return to action Tuesday on the road against Elk County Catholic.
"We're still trying to find the right combination on the floor and we have a lot of inexperienced players out there who are still learning. We've seen some improvement and we hope that continues," said Johnsonburg head varsity volleyball coach Bill Shuey. "We had more intensity [Thursday] than we did earlier this week but our serving wasn't very good. We start scoring with four or five points in a row but then we'd put a serve long or into the net. We'll keep working hard and hopefully get better."
Shuey was mostly displeased with his team's passing performance and hopes for improvement as the season progresses.
"Our passing isn't where it needs to be, especially the serve-receives which is where Kane scored a lot of their points because we couldn't receive the serve," Shuey said. "If you can't pass it's going to be very difficult to win as that is a very big part of the game. I saw some improvement [Thursday] as a couple players stepped up but, all in the all, the consistency is not there and we need to work more in practice to get better."