Despite sloppy start, SJO volleyball team rolls past Unity

TOLONO -- The Unity volleyball team came out swinging against visiting St. Joseph-Ogden in the Illini Prairie Conference match on Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Rockets, the team was unable to maintain the intensity needed in the 2-0 loss to the Spartans.

It is rare that SJO head coach Abby McDonald calls a timeout early in a match, but four serves into the first set and down 4-0 on the scoreboard against Unity, she signaled to the referees for a brief halt as the Rockets' dominant play had her team out of sorts. After the action resumed, the Spartans struggled, but were able to methodically work brief moments of magic to keep the game in reach.

The two teams tied up the score five times in the first set until St. Joseph-Ogden's Shayne Immke's block put her team up 19-18. Firmly in system, SJO then won six of the next eight points to win, 25-20.

Emmalee Atkins tries to tip the ball over St. Joseph-Ogden's Peyton Williams

Unity's Emmalee Atkins tries to tip the ball over St. Joseph-Ogden's Peyton Williams. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Immke would finish the match with five kills and seven digs.

With the momentum squarely on their half of the court and Taylor Hug at the service line, the Spartans hammered out an 8-0 lead over their headlight-struck host to start the second half.

"Taylor has a very high volleyball IQ. She is the quarterback of our team." McDonald said. "She will do everything she can to win behind the service line."

Hug led the team's service effort with three aces. She was the game leader in assists with 14.

She added, with an appreciative smile, "She typically has a plan even if it is different than mine."

Hug and the Spartans, who were now firmly playing in system, continued to pile on points building a 15-point lead on the Rockets to go up, 20-5. The match ended with SJO up by 15, 25-10.

"We were not taking care of the ball," said Unity head coach Erika Yerry. "We need to work on consistency."

Junior outside hitter Addie Roesch putaway six kills and served two aces for the Spartans. Immke added another five kills and notched half of the 14 digs between her and Hug's defensive effort. Mikyla Haley tallied 10 digs and was credit with two of the team's seven aces.

"We played with a lot of confidence," McDonald said critiquing her team's second set performance. "When get our left side swinging early and our right, it really affects our opponents."