It didn’t come easy, but the Marshall volleyball team earned a four-set victory on Pink Night.
The Cardinals bested Belleville 3-2 in their final home game of the regular season.
After each team spent the first few points settling in, Marshall held a narrow 6-5 lead in the first. From there, the Cardinals used a pair of 5-0 runs in the middle of the set to build a 19-10 lead over the Wildcats. The first run was highlighted by two Malena King aces, while the second saw the Cardinals force Belleville into a handful of errors.
Though Marshall didn’t have any more runs in the first, they did outscore Belleville 6-4 over the final 10 points to take set number one 25-14.
In set number two, the Cardinals again used a pair of 5-0 runs to propel them to a victory. Instead of in the middle of the set, this time the runs came at the beginning and the end.
Tied 4-4, Marshall’s first run – sparked by a Skyla Michalak ace – gave the Cardinals a 9-4 cushion. Throughout the majority of the remainder of the set, Belleville proved to have Marshall’s number; the Wildcats outscored the Cardinals 18-11 throughout a long stretch in the set.
Trailing 20-22, Marshall’s second 5-0 run came at a most opportune time. The Cardinals scored the final five points to secure the late comeback and take a 2-0 lead into the third set.
In set number three, it was Belleville’s turn to use a pair of 5-0 runs to win a set.
Up 8-10, the two Wildcat runs in the middle of the set allowed them to take a commanding 21-11 lead over Marshall. The stretch was one of the rare times in the match when the Cardinals allowed Belleville’s junior middle blocker Brooke Everson – who led the Wildcats in kills on the night – to get on a roll. Save for that stretch, Marshall was mostly able to hold Everson in check.
“We just tried to make sure our middle blockers were blocking 1-on-1 with her wherever she was on the court,” said Marshall’s Head Coach Christina Schmitz. “She was very consistent on where she was hitting, so putting out defense in the spot, exactly, where she kept hitting; she was predictable.”
The Cardinals couldn’t recover in the third, however, and wound up surrendering the set to the Wildcats 25-15.
Marshall’s response to dropping a set came promptly at the start of the fourth. With Aubrie Kappes serving, Marshall started off on a 6-0 run to gain the early advantage.
“It all depends on how the energy and communication stays after we lose in the run…” Schmitz added on how important Marshall’s handful of runs were. “Any team – if they get out of a bad run quickly – it helps your energy and momentum throughout the game. I think starting off with a huge run was a really good benefit to us.”
The Wildcats inched their way closer and closer as the set progressed, closing the gap to 13-12 midway through. Belleville finally tied the set at 18 apiece, threatening to send the match into a fifth set.
Two consecutive plays by Trinity Flint – a kill followed by an ace – were enough to swing the momentum back in Marshall’s favor. Up 20-18, the Cardinals won five of the next nine points to bring an end to the contest, 25-22.
Kiana Hellenbrand led the Cardinals with 23 kills and 10 digs. Kappes and Flint tied for the lead in aces with four, followed by Hellenbrand with three. Michalak racked up 37 assists on the night, while Abby Ward and Amber Skalitzky each netted one block.
Marshall (19-9, 5-4 Capitol South) heads to Waterloo on Thursday for their final contest of the regular season. The WIAA postseason brackets have not yet been announced, but the first round is slated to start Tuesday, October 22 at 7 p.m.