Eldon came ready to play.
The Mustangs visited their Highway 52 neighbor Versailles for a Tri-County Conference showdown and walked away with a two-set win by final scores of 25-18 and 25-10. Fueled by a couple of big runs, the Mustangs jumped out to some comfortable leads that would not be threatened in either set.
“That was so refreshing," Eldon coach Laura Baucom said. "We have just been practicing on a lot of skills, getting focused and we executed tonight so that was great. We have been having some tough practices and it paid off tonight.”
The night started out as tightly contested battle with neither side able to gain a solid advantage through the first 11 points. Then, with the score tied at 11, Eldon unleashed its attack with a 10-1 scoring run behind the serving of senior setter Leah Stichler who led the team with four aces.
“I just tried to set the ball the best that I could and they played smart," Stichler said of her teammates. "I think we all played smart and we just stuck together.” Stichler
Versailles began to fight back with a 6-1 scoring run of its own to cut the deficit to 22-18, but could not close the gap. Versailles coach Jessica Ollison noted that throughout the night, Eldon usually had an answer.
“I feel like even when we were able to put a block in their faces, they were over the block so that makes it extremely tough on defense," the coach pointed out. "We did not get as many touches on the block that I wanted to and we just did not get a good read on the ball all night. We just had a hard time reading and anticipating.”
Versailles struck first in the second set building an early 2-0 lead, but the Mustangs quickly tied it back up, regained the lead and kept it the rest of the way. Once again behind the serving of Stichler, Eldon put up 11 unanswered points and did not look back.
"We served tough. Leah had a great serving night and she was fearless back there on the service line," Baucom said. "I am very proud of her and that is what we have been working on, serving aggressively like that. To see that tonight was great.”
Of course, there were plenty of other Mustangs who did their jobs as well. Senior Grace Baucom put up a team-leading 11 kills while freshman Addie Davis put up five and Stichler recorded 10 assists. Defensively, Baucom posted eight digs, senior Bailey Farris recorded seven and junior Dakota Graham put five digs to go with two blocks.
Baucom may have led the charge offensively and defensively, but the senior said it takes all six players on the court to get each point.
“I love front row and I love a good setter too and that is what I got," Baucom said of Stichler. "Of course, you cannot do it without the back row. You cannot do it without anybody.
"It takes six people out there, but I do love hitting the ball," she added with a smile.
For Versailles, senior Bri Hendrix recorded five kills to pace the Tigers while fellow senior Brooke Edgar put up three to go with six assists and two aces. In the defensive department, Hendrix had six digs and senior Hope Heimsoth finished the night with five respectively.
Versailles has certainly had better outings on the court.
“They (Eldon) not only came ready to play, they came ready to kick our behinds and they did," Ollison said. "They were intense, determined and that is just something we did not have on the court tonight and it showed.”
Going forward, the coach said she is looking to see more intensity out of her club.
“I really want to start seeing intensity from the girls," she stated. "I just feel like that is the big thing that is missing right now- that defensive intensity with shoulders forward, bottoms down, ready to play and wanting to play anything that comes to them. So, we need to just keep working on defensive intensity and having that mentality that nothing is going to hit the floor.”
While one team picked up a win and the other came up short Thursday night, one cause that could never lose is raising funds for breast cancer awareness as the two sides met for their annual "Pink Out" game where both teams displayed pink jerseys. It is a tradition both teams are glad to be a part of.
“I love the 'Pink Out' game. Every year that I’ve coached I’ve looked forward to it," Ollison said. "I think it is a great way to really recognize the struggles that people go through and really raise awareness for such a big issue.”
“We love the Pink Game. It is something we look forward to every year and we are sad it is our last one, but I am glad we came out with the win," added the senior Baucom. "I think it is awesome how we see two communities come together... and it shows that we are a pretty close-knit community."
Versailles (7-6-1) was in action Saturday at the Smith-Cotton Invitational in Sedalia and the Tigers will return to the court on Monday at Smith-Cotton at 5 p.m. Meanwhile, Eldon (10-2-1) will host Columbia Hickman on Monday at the same time. Baucom is hoping she and her teammates come out with the same exact fight.
"I think we were prepared for this game. We have awesome coaches that push us in practice so we are ready for a tough situation in a game whenever it comes," the senior said. "We are pretty spoiled.”