In four years at the helm of the St. Anthony Bulldogs, Kristie Bailey has never topped crosstown foe Effingham.
Thanks to a magnificent effort by her team and the duo of Megan Nuxoll and Haylee Mathis, that changed Tuesday night.
Nuxoll had 12 kills and eight digs, while Mathis had 23 assists as the Bulldogs bested the Flaming Hearts 25-21, 25-22.
While Nuxoll led the team in kills, she was quick to deflect the praise back to her teammates.
"My teammates had some great passes, and we were working with what works," Nuxoll said. "The sets were in the right spot."
In turn, Bailey was quick to push the praise back to her junior hitter.
"Megan Nuxoll was on fire, so I said 'Go to Megan, go to Megan,'" she said. "When someone has a hot hand like she did, we just keep going to her until they moved."
Despite the losing effort, Effingham coach Laurie Bohnhoff understood both sides played each other incredibly tight.
"They're a good team," she said. "We played well. If we played poorly against them, we get beat 25-10."
The game was the team's Volley for a Cure game, with both teams wearing breast cancer awareness t-shirts as opposed to their traditional jerseys. Proceeds from the game went to the Crossroads Cancer Center.
St. Anthony took control of the first set early with a 4-3 lead, and while Effingham continued to push the Bulldogs, Nuxoll made the difference late in the first set.
Up 18-16, Nuxoll scored five of the final seven points for the Bulldogs, with the other two coming off Effingham balls into their side of the net.
"It feels awesome, we haven't won in four or five years, feels great," Nuxoll said.
The second set played out differently, with the two teams playing each other tight and Effingham taking control midway through the set.
The Flaming Hearts took the lead 6-5 and would extend it all the way to 17-12.
St. Anthony roared back, with Nuxoll scoring six points down the stretch and putting the Bulldogs up 18-17. Effingham briefly tied it, but never got closer. Lauren Wendt had two big kills for the Bulldogs' 23rd and 24th points, and Logan Braunecker finished them off with a game-winning ace to clinch the win.
The aggressive offense paid off in full for the Bulldogs, as they converted their aggression into a number of free balls, the bread and butter of their offense.
"Our whole goal was to serve aggressively so we could get a lot of free balls," Bailey said. "We love to hit the ball quickly, and we were able to run our fast offense."
Bohnhoff agreed with Bailey that the Hearts' offense struggled to find their rhythm.
"We need to run a little smoother," she said. "Hopefully, our serve/receive will be better."
Wendt had six kills for the Bulldogs, and Braunecker added five kills, two aces and two digs. Maggie Mumm had eight digs, tied with Nuxoll for the team high, and Emily Wortman added seven of her own.
Effingham's Chandler Ramey led the Hearts with six kills and tallied seven digs as well. Josie Zerrusen had eight digs to lead the team, and Felicia Totten's 11 assists were a team high. Ramey and Stephanie Robb each had three blocks, but Bohnhoff said the team's blocking wasn't up to par in the game.
"I thought that our blocking was what hurt us," she said. "If we could get some blocks on their big hitters, it would have changed the game quite a bit."
The Flaming Hearts fall to 0-1 on the year, and head to Newton Thursday night. St. Anthony improves to 2-0 and heads for another non-conference game Thursday at Edwards County.
Effingham 21 22
St. Anthony 25 25
Effingham: Donaldson (5 digs, 1 assist, 2 kills); Beals (1 dig, 3 kills, 1 block); Zerrusen (8 digs); Ramey (7 digs, 6 kills, 3 blocks); Nunamaker (1 dig); Totten (4 digs, 11 assists, 2 kills, 1 block); Robb (3 digs, 1 assist, 2 kills, 3 blocks); Fred (6 digs)
St. Anthony: Wortman (7 digs); Mathis (1 kill, 2 digs, 23 assists, 1 block); Schmidt (1 ace, 2 kills); Wendt (6 kills, 1 block); Braunecker (2 aces, 5 kills, 2 digs); Mumm (8 digs); Nuxoll (1 ace, 12 kills, 8 digs); Schultz (1 ace, 13 digs)