The St. James volleyball team kicked off their week with a pair of home games on Monday on Tuesday. The Lady Tigers made quick work of Dixon on Monday, winning easily in two sets. They then had a tough match with Cuba where they nearly forced a third set, but couldn't quite finish in a two set loss.
The Lady Tigers were dominant on Monday night against Dixon. In the first set, the Lady Bulldogs were held to single digits in a quick 25-7 win by St. James. The second set was much of the same, as the Lady Tigers cruised to a 25-10 win. The JV also won in straight sets 25-11, 25-17.
St. James had a dominant serving night with a total of 25 aces on the night. Mackenna Rodgers and Makiah Marshall each had eight aces on the night, while Makayla Case added five, Courtney Cale chipped in another three and Hannah Marcee had one. Rodgers also led the team with nine assists. Raina Forstrom led St. James in the hitting game with four kills, while Case added three. Marcee and Marshall each chipped in two kills.
"(The game against Dixon) was good for them and us as a whole club just to be able to come out and they were able to relax a little more on the court," said head coach Julie Guese. "There wasn't as much pressure, but they were still communicating and moving the ball. It helps with their confidence."
The Lady Tigers did not carry that momentum into their game with Cuba on Tuesday night, as they got out to a sluggish start. Cuba took a fast 5-1 lead and, after a couple of small St. James runs, the Lady Wildcats stretched that lead out to 15-6. St. James was struggling to lock down their hitting game, with a number of long hits that missed over the back line. The Lady Tigers called a timeout after the Cuba lead stretched out to 15-6 and they were finally able to settle in. The Lady Tigers made a great run with Cale serving, cutting the Cuba lead to 16-13. The Lady Wildcats were able to build their lead back out to 20-13, before trading points for the rest of the match. Cuba was able to finish strong to seal a 25-19 win.
The second set was more like the end of the first. The match started with the two teams trading points until the match was locked at 5-5. Cuba scored the next four points, but St. James fough back to lick the game at 10-10 after a great rally. The lead went back and forth for the rest of the game with the game eventually being tied again at 22 all on a kill by Marcee. Cuba then scored the next two points, but another Marcee kill brought the score to 24-23 in Cuba's favor. The Lady Wildcats were able to score the final point to finish off the match with a 25-23 win.
Rodgers had a great game distributing to her teammates, dishing out 14 assists. She added a pair of aces and a kill. Marcee led St. James in hitting with seven kills on eight attempts, while adding an ace. Forstrom chipped in with six kills and a block. Case added another four kills.
St. James was able to find success against Cuba when they started talking, which led to better hitting. Coach Guese said that communication will be the key to their success.
"Communication is huge. We're very quiet when we're not playing well. It kind of goes hand in hand. When we're playing well, we're communicating, we're moving our feet and covering each other's butts," said coach Guese. "We've had the problem where our hits are not kills, so we've been working on trying to finish some plays. We were kind of having some of that same pattern in the beginning and when they started feeling the momentum, they started finding the court and finding their confidence and things started looking up."
At the end of the night, St. James was a young team that is still trying to learn how to finish out the close games. Coach Guese said they need to work on trying to play to win, rather than not to lose.
"At one point, we were being a little too soft. They started getting scared when it was tied a couple of times, like they didn't want to be the one to mess up," said coach Guese. "We talked about, there's a difference between being smart and not being aggressive at all."
The Lady Tigers are off for the rest of September, but still have a lot of action left in the season. They'll open October with Four Rivers Conference matches against Owensville and Sullivan. They will also play in tournaments in each of the first two weekends of the month with the St. Clair and Linn Tournaments. The win against Dixon and a solid match against Cuba should set them up to keep trending in the right direction during the busy month ahead.
"We are getting ready to play two tournaments still, so we have a lot of games left," said coach Guese. Having a win last night then a super competitive night tonight is huge for us, because we definitely were in a little funk playing against a big Hermann team and a big Pacific team. They were really down on themselves and the momentum was just not there. Now we're getting it back."