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Volleyball team fought to the end in loss to Champaign Central

Jenna Albrecht goes up for a block
(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

St. Joseph-Ogden Jenna Albrecht goes up for a block against visiting Champaign Central. The Spartans suffered their second loss of the season in straight sets to visiting Champaign Central, 25-22, 25-20. See more match photos here . . .
Despite pounding 24 kills and an impressive display of resiliency against the taller roster of visiting Champaign Central players, the St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball went down swinging in the non-conference meeting between the two teams 2-0 on Tuesday.

SJO led for the first 13 points in set one. After breaking a tie at 8-all, the senior led squad started to pull away stretching their lead to as many as three points over the course of next several exchanges.

However, Central would not let their host, with an enrollment one-third of their own, bully them for long.

"They had an offense that we were not necessarily prepared for. We keyed on some big kids we thought would swing aggressively against us," said SJO head coach Abby McDonald. "They picked our defense apart. They swung aggressively and they tipped well."

After yet another lead change, senior Katelyn Berry and the Spartans fought back valiantly once again to tie the score for the final time in the set. The Maroons buckled down to squeak out the win, 25-22.

SJO mostly trailed the start of the second set and finally clawed their way to their first and only lead at 13-12. The lead change was short-lived as the Maroons rallied back to 16-15 and continued to hit through the Spartans' blocks to a 25-20 finish.

"As a team they played excellent," McDonald said, complimenting the Maroons' aggressive play. "They really got us out of system and kept us out the majority of the night."

While the height disadvantage was evident, Berry said the team needs to find other ways to score.

"I think once we got down we kind of stayed down rather than getting (back) up," she said. "In future when we get down, we have to keep pushing."

Seniors Payton Vallee, Lacey Kaiser and Kennedi Burnett contributed four kills. Kaiser and Burnett tallied 10 digs in the loss. Another senior, Emily Bigger, had 23 assists.

"I commend all of our kids. I thought they fought to the end," McDonald added. "We just didn't capitalize on some of the things that we really needed to be successful."

The loss, when weighed against the level of competition so far, drops SJO's record to a quite respectable at 5-2.

"Its not time for us to peak yet. Let's peak when it counts," McDonald said with her eyes on a deep postseason run. "Our biggest thing right now is what can we learn from every match. Now we have to start making sure we are gaining some kind of knowledge no matter if we win or lose."

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