A sick player and another slow start could not stop Hickman from continuing its winning streak.
The Kewpies fell behind early and overcame Paige Ely’s departure to defeat Cole Camp 25-17, 25-20 on Monday at Hickman.
Ely started for the Kewpies (10-0), but she was suffering from the flu and Kendra Williams replaced her in the second game.
“Paige wasn’t feeling well, but she didn’t want to come out,” coach Greg Gunn said. “Kendra is chomping at the bit to get out there. As a junior on a team with seven seniors its tough to find playing time, but wants it and she played really well.”
Williams had seven digs and four kills in the match, despite only playing in the second game.
Hickman overcame sluggish starts to both games by using its advantage in the middle. Hickman found success behind its middle blockers. Brenna Schlader tied for the team lead with seven kills and Naomi Tesfamikael had five. The last point was a kill by an unblocked Schlader.
“They had several balls without a blocker there, especially in the first game,” Gunn said. “They tried to fix that problem in the second, but it’s hard for blockers with the way that Dani (Newton) moved the ball and with several girls that can hit the ball.”
The Kewpies fell behind 5-0 in the first game for the second straight match. Ely missed two scoring opportunities and a misplay in the middle involving Newton and Schlader helped the Bluebirds take the lead. The Kewpies trailed 8-4 when Ely served six straight points to put Hickman ahead for good in the match.
Gunn does not know the reason for the slow starts, but hopes the Kewpies change the trend before it costs them.
“We came out flat and were tentative,” Gunn said. “I don’t know if they weren’t expecting Cole Camp to be as good as they were or to play as well as they did, but it will eventually come back to bite us.”
Schlader said she thinks Hickman was overconfident and that caused much of the early problems, while Alex Ristow blamed a sluggish practice on Sunday.
“We had a bad practice yesterday,” Ristow said. “It was a Sunday night and we slacked off a little bit and that carried over.”
Cole Camp got off to a lead in the second game as well, but Williams entered the game for Ely and after a slow start helped spark the Kewpies.
“She started tentative; she didn’t want to make a mistake,” Gunn said. “But she settled down and she can flat out jump and hit the ball down.”
Gunn was not worried about the slow play in the second game, because of the senior leadership.
“That happens every once in a while,” Gunn said. “The seniors are used to that and they gather themselves and don’t get down.”
Ristow said: “We realized we needed to calm down. We needed to play our game and not play down to their level.”
Newton led the team with 22 assists while Ristow, Veronica Smith and Lindsey Fleming all had eight digs.
The 10-0 record is the best start for the Kewpies in Gunn’s eight years as coach and he doesn’t expect it to end anytime soon.
“The girls are confident and they want to win,” Gunn said. “So I expect us to keep winning.”