Things came easy for Effingham Tuesday night in a straight set win over Paris, but the Flaming Hearts found themselves on the other side of that equation Thursday as they fell to Salem 25-17, 25-16.
Effingham had less trouble putting away Paris than Salem had Thursday night. The Hearts never found their groove, however, as an aggressive Wildcat squad took control from the opening points.
It was a reminder for coach Laurie Bohnhoff's Hearts how tough the conference slate can be, as they finish the first half of Apollo play with a 3-2 record.
"Salem was just better than us, probably in every aspect of the game," she said. "We've got to improve, we've got to get better."
The Hearts got the first point of the night, but Salem took control with a 9-1 run and didn't look back in the first set.
The Salem offense ran through setter Kyla Cook's impressive night, as she took control of the offense and got in one the scoring herself with a number of kills and aces.
Effingham had signs of life at the end of the first set and into the second, but never sustained the offense.
"Several times, we got a little bit of a dig up but it wasn't something we could get any offense out of," Bohnhoff said. "We have to get a little more cohesive with (setter) Felicia (Totten) as far as our hitters, because we looked like we were off a bit."
The Hearts scored the first three points of the second set, but quickly found themselves on the back end of a 13-5 deficit from there. The lead would stay at that margin for much of the second set as Salem finished off Effingham.
While the Wildcats' offense moved well, Effingham had a number of chances to counter defensively that didn't pan out.
"We had several blocks where we failed to get a good block on it," Bohnhoff said. "They were swinging hard, and when a team swings hard, you should be able to get a hard block on them. It just went off our hands a few times."
Brittany Beals and Chandler Ramey each had four kills to lead Effingham. Josie Zerrusen had nine digs, one ace and one block, all team highs. Felicia Totten and six digs and nine assists.
Stephanie Robb and Jennifer Fred also had one ace, while Robb, Donaldson, Beals and Ramey all had a block as well.
The loss drops Effingham to 8-9 overall. The Hearts start their second round of conference play Tuesday, heading to Charleston. Effingham topped the Trojans in their earlier meeting this season.
Salem 25 25
Effingham 17 16
Effingham: Donaldson (7 digs, 3 kills, 1 block); Beals (1 assist, 4 kills, 1 block); Zerrusen (9 digs, 1 assist, 1 ace, 1 block); Ramey (3 digs, 4 kills, 1 block); Totten (6 digs, 9 assists); Robb (1 dig, 2 kills, 1 ace, 1 block); Fred (5 digs, 1 ace)