Camdenton never faltered from the task at hand.
The Lakers visited Highway 54 neighbor Eldon for a lake area battle Tuesday night looking for their first win of the season and seized it with a two-set win by final scores of 25-15 and 25-22. The Mustangs made a late push in set No. 2, but Camdenton closed the door with a strong finish.
“We called a time out and we just told them that we play to win. We don’t play to try not to lose so be aggressive,” Camdenton coach Austin Walker recalled after Eldon chopped a 5-point deficit down to two late in the second set. “These girls just kind of have that mentality so they knew they had to get the side out… It is good to see that they did not back down from it and want the competition.”
The night started off well for Eldon who drew first blood and took an initial 1-0 lead early in the first set. However, the Lakers quickly settled in and after a 3-3 tie, they went on 9-1 run that broke the set wide open. That was largely accomplished by being sharp and putting pressure on the opponent by playing relatively mistake-free volleyball without too many unforced errors. The Mustangs closed the gap to four points, but it was the closest they would get the rest of the way before Camdenton senior Kylie Meier put the nail in the coffin with the set-winning kill.
“It is something that we all have to do together as a team,” Camdenton senior Abbie Miller pointed out. “We hold each other accountable, have to play with energy, come together and keep each other calm. It is teamwork all the way around.”
The second set was hotly contested as Camdenton never led by more than five points, but the Lakers never tied nor trailed. Although the Mustangs could not quite get over the hump, Eldon coach Laura Baucom was pleased with the fight her team showed Tuesday night. In the end, the coach said that Camdenton’s strong servers made it tough to make passes and transition into offense.
“We wanted to stay determined and did not ever want to give up. That was kind of our goal tonight, to never give up and make them beat us,” she stated. “They were going to have to work extra hard if they were going to beat us.”
Camdenton was up for the challenge and once again, consistency was key.
“We don’t have that exact power hitter like a Jordan Wolfe we had last year,” Walker said of the 6-foot 2017 Camdenton graduate that now plays volleyball for Columbia College. “So we really have just been preaching that you have to be consistent and find ways to get your kills. It is really nice and really refreshing to know that we don’t have to worry about if our defender is going to be there. We played great defense, we talk and we hustle so this group is super exciting to watch.”
Camdenton junior Natalie Basham led the Laker attack with eight kills while Miller racked up 17 assists and senior Sara McDuffey put up three aces. On the defensive side of the court, senior Madison VanderPloeg had a team-leading seven digs and Meier finished with two blocks.
Thankful for the defensive effort of their teammates, the Miller-Basham connection was strong throughout the night.
“I play three sports with Natalie and even though she is a grade younger than me, I trust her,” Miller said. “She is a heck of an athlete and it is a pleasure setting her.
“She makes me look good,” Miller added with a smile.
Basham also offered compliments for her teammate.
“I could not do it without my setter,” the junior said.
Walker has been pleased with the duo and what she has seen from everyone so far whether it is Miller’s leadership, sophomore Megan Vest’s intensity or the passing of senior Grace Wormek to name a few attributes. The coach said it is a process where she hopes to see her club get better every single game. So far so good, even after the Lakers’ tough loss in the home opener on Monday against Republic that came down to the wire.
“You are never satisfied with losing and never want to lose, but the way we played it was kind of like we won because that is the way we played,” Walker remarked. “It was exciting because that is the first product we put out there on the court.”
Eldon senior Grace Baucom paced the Mustang offense with seven kills while senior Leah Stichler recorded nine assists and both Stichler and Baucom contributed four digs each.
“Grace is a warrior and I appreciate that. We are always encouraging her to be a warrior and stay aggressive,” Baucom noted.
Missing a few players due to injuries or ineligibility, Baucom said she and the coaching staff are still figuring out the right formula to create the most effective lineup. A few players like sophomore Anna Herbert and freshmen Addie Davis and Cassidy Prater are starting to see some varsity experience and Baucom has liked what they have brought to the table. The coach went on to say that a team like Camdenton is a good test for that process.
“It is still early in the season… We have not had enough practice time with a good lineup so my starting lineup is still kind of in the works,” the coach stated. “We are kind of seeing who can fit in this place and who maybe needs to move to that place. We are going to see where they can fit in and help.”
Ultimately, the most important thing through it all is for the players to be comfortable.
“I just want us to feel comfortable on the floor. The girls don’t feel comfortable because I have them in some ‘B’ positions so we just need to practice to where everybody feels comfortable and confident,” the coach said.
Eldon (1-1) will play host to Warsaw Thursday night at 5 p.m. Meanwhile, Camdenton (1-1) will host Logan-Rogersville Tuesday night at 4:30 p.m. Basham said the team just needs to keep going with what has worked well so far.
“Keep pushing in practice and keep doing what we are doing- keep the energy up and have fun,” the junior said.