ALEX McNAMEE Daily News
Effingham Daily News
---- — The result may have been the same as Effingham’s Sept. 24 loss to Mattoon, but it looked different on Thursday, especially in the front row where Shelby Nunamaker and Brittany Beals played.
Effingham head coach Laurie Bohnhoff started her tallest and longest players in the front row, trying to counter the hitting ability of Mattoon’s Taylor Smith, who had 13 kills in the Sept. 24 contest.
It worked well against Smith, Mattoon head coach Jack Ley said, even though his star outside hitter finished the game with 12 kills and the Green Wave won in two sets, 25-18 and 25-20.
“Brittany Beals, our middle, was lined up against (Smith) two-thirds of the time,” Bohnhoff said. “Shelby is my biggest kid and Brittany is maybe my longest with her long arms.”
Beals led the team with five blocks, proving her coach’s strategy effective, and had a team-high five kills in the game. Nunamaker had two blocks.
Accompanying the lineup change, Effingham served more aggressively than it had last month and took more risks, especially when Smith played in her usual front-row slot.
By serving aggressively when Smith was in the front row, Bohnhoff said her team tried to level off Smith’s hitting ability, which isn’t used as much when she’s on the back end of the rotation.
“We intentionally served really aggressive when she was in the front row,” Bohnhoff said. “With her in the back row, we think we are little bit closer to equal to (Mattoon).”
The strategy peaked at the beginning of the second set after Mattoon hit the first serve out of bounds. Stephanie Robb served eight consecutive points, including a team-high two aces, to give Effingham a 9-0 lead.
Ley said Effingham was a different, better team on Thursday, which he said was the case for the second match-up between the two teams in each of the past two seasons.
“I told our girls after that first set, ‘It’s not going to be easy,’” Ley said. “Going down 9-0 against a team of (Effingham’s) caliber is going to be tough to come back from. I thought we kept our composure and didn’t panic.”
Mattoon picked up a few points after Effingham’s opening run, to bring the Flaming Hearts’ lead down to 11-4; however, the Green Wave’s play picked up, closing the gap to 13-9.
Effingham’s last large lead was by five points, 18-13, before Mattoon came back to tie the set 19-19, and take the lead one point later.
Leading 21-20, Mattoon scored the final four points of the match to seal the victory, but Ley said it was a challenge for his team in the set.
“Sometimes it’s good to go through sets like this – once in a while, not very often,” Ley said. “Our passing fell apart there for one rotation and you just can’t do that.”
Bohnhoff said her team showed that it still has some aspects of the game to work on, especially after losing its 9-0 lead in the second set.
“We think we’re a pretty good volleyball team, but haven’t been playing as good as we think we can lately,” Bohnhoff said.
Effingham (9-11, 3-4) heads into tournament play on Saturday at the Shelbyville Invitational. The Hearts’ next Apollo Conference game is Tuesday, at home against Mt. Zion.
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mattoon 25 25
Effingham 18 20
Effingham: Donaldson (6 digs, 3 kills), Beals (1 assist, 5 kills, 5 blocks), Zerrusen (5 digs), Ramey (1 dig, 5 kills, 1 block), Nunamaker (1 assist, 3 kills, 2 blocks), Totten (1 dig, 14 assists, 1 ace, 2 blocks), Robb (2 digs, 2 kills, 2 aces), Fred (3 digs, 1 ace)