Rams win MEC?tourney opener
In postseason play, there’s no room for a bad start, no room for falling behind.
One bad performance can end your season.
The Shepherd volleyball team had that on its mind heading into Tuesday’s game against Virginia-Wise in the opening round of the Mountain East Conference tournament.
With a strong effort, the Rams got their tournament off to a good start with a 3-0 (25-9, 25-16, 25-15) win over the Cavaliers.
“They played with a purpose and with energy,” Shepherd coach Sarah Smith said.
“We definitely prepared for them in (Monday’s) practice. I feel like we were really prepared and came out with a lot of energy,” Shepherd middle hitter Kayla Motheral said. “It’s always important to start well.”
All three sets were similar in structure, with Shepherd pulling away early to midway through the set en route a trio of big-margin wins.
In the first set, the Rams’ biggest win at 25-9, Shepherd took off with the game tied at 4-4, scoring the next seven points to take an 11-4 lead. During the stretch, Motheral notched three of her team-high 11 kills, and Kayla Walker recorded a pair of aces.
Later in the set, up 14-6, the Rams again put a big run together, reeling off six straight points to extend their lead to 20-6. Motheral added another kill, and Lauren Summa capped off the run with back-to-back aces.
Shepherd won five of the next eight points to take the first set, one in which the Rams worked their system efficiently.
“We break down each set down into segments – the first to eight, 16 and then 25. We practice that way, and that’s key for us,” Smith said. “I thought we did a great job tonight all-around.”
The third and final set also saw Shepherd jump out to a sizable lead, this time a 7-2 advantage.
With the score 7-4, the Rams won three straight points to take a 10-4 lead, with Motheral recording three more kills. Shepherd eventually extended the lead to nine points on four separate occasions before settling the final margin at 10 points.
Anna Roper and Kayla Walker, who each had eight kills, combined for four kills down the stretch. Roper’s kill down the middle made the score 19-10 and another kill toward the center, which deflected off a Virginia-Wise player, made the score 20-11.
Walker’s two kills made the score 18-10 and 23-15.
The Cavaliers held close for a good portion of the second set, holding the lead twice, at 5-4 and 9-8, the last lead for Virginia-Wise. The serving of Brittni Altmann helped the Cavaliers get to the final lead.
At 9-9, the Rams put together several small runs to take and maintain the lead. Katie Beecher notched three kills to help Shepherd build leads of 12-9 and 13-11.
The Rams put the set away with a 7-0 streak to extend the lead to 23-13, before winning 25-16.
“They came in a few weeks ago and beat us 3-0 on our home court. It’s definitely a revenge match,” Smith said.