After losing the first set at Camdenton 25-15 and staring at match point in the second, the Mustangs battled back to take the set 27-25 and capture the third 25-19 for their first win over the Lakers since 2015.

Eldon was on the ropes Tuesday night.

After losing the first set at Camdenton 25-15 and staring at match point in the second, the Mustangs battled back to take the set 27-25 and capture the third 25-19 for their first win over the Lakers since 2015.

“I think it was who had heart, who wanted to play with heart and keep going,” said Eldon coach Beth Krantz, a former player for the Mustangs who improved to 2-0 in her first season at the helm. “We’ve been working on being that scrappy team and we want people to walk away going, ‘Oh wow, they are out to win,’ and I think they did that tonight.”

Eldon held the lead for most of the second set and led by as many as eight points before Camdenton stormed back to tie it back up at 15. From there, it was a battle to the end as each point became crucial. A misplayed Camdenton serve on match point opened the door for Eldon and the Mustangs took advantage as they picked up the next two points and won the set on a net violation from the Lakers.

“We definitely brought a lot of energy in that second set. We really did not want to lose and their student section was really loud so in the first set I think we let that get to us,” Eldon senior Dakota Graham said. “In the second set, we just blocked it out and focused on us and Camdenton. We had a lot of energy, kept the energy consistent throughout the game and we just pushed through with a win so we are super excited about it.”

As rowdy as the road environment may have been, one big fan of both teams who was in attendance Tuesday night was Missouri Sports Hall of Famer Ann Gulshen who coached both programs over the course of 29 years and compiled 704 career victories in the process. She was pleased with the competitive spirit on display.

“These kids are my heart. I love watching them play, compete and get better,” Gulshen said. “ So many of these kids, I had their mothers as players and that is a special thrill to watch their daughters playing. You can see those same patterns and tendencies, so what a treat. The Camdenton kids, I did not have as many of their mothers, but I had their sisters and coaches as players, so it is a win-win for everybody. The kids got better and had a great time competing I hope.”

Once again, Eldon commanded the lead early in the final set, building a lead that climbed to six points until Camdenton fought back and tied it up at 16. Then, the Mustangs went on a 9-3 run to close it out.

After losing the first set, Krantz’s message to her club was simply to play smart and it certainly seems like her players got that message, making it tough for Camdenton to claw its way back.

“We all did our jobs, we did not do too much or too little, but just what we needed to do,” Graham pointed out. “We kept it simple with the sets and plays we were running and tried to throw them off balance. We finally found their holes and as long as we attacked the ball, that gave them less of a chance to attack back at us.”

It was a tough way for Camdenton (1-1) to drop its first game of the season with victory just a point away, but lessons can always be provided in a loss.

“They (Eldon) got some luck points and great hustle points. We did not win as many hustle points as we did last night against Republic and that cost us,” Camdenton coach Austin Walker stated. “We had costly errors at costly times, but that is the thing we said with this group. We know we were going to have some struggles of replacing a lot of kids, but we just have to keep working at it, keep getting better and keep putting them in that situation to where they learn to become successful in that.”

The good news is that self-made errors can be corrected and the desire to compete is not an issue.

“We got down and dug ourselves a hole in both sets and I’m proud of the way we fought back. That is kind of how we were at Republic where we were down in set three and just kind of kept chipping away, kept getting those points and that is what we did tonight,” Walker said.

The Eldon attack was led by a pair of freshmen in Isabella Snelling and Caroline Beckmann who recorded seven kills each while Graham added four kills and three aces and sophomore Addison Davis put up 12 assists. On the defensive end, Beckmann added five blocks while Davis led the dig department with five respectively.

“We’ve got some very young players out there and they are learning to keep the ball in front of them, to see the blockers and hit around them and make smart decisions,” Krantz noted. “I think they are doing an awesome job and I’m very proud of them.”

Camdenton senior Natalie Basham led the Lakers with 13 kills while sophomore Syndey Smith added 11, senior Lauryn Hulett added five and freshman Payton Kincaid and junior Megan Vest added four. Smith contributed four aces and Enos added three while Smith also helped the attack with 18 assists and senior Lizzie Miller collected 10. Defensively, junior Shelby Kurtz kept Camdenton fighting with 10 digs while Miller and Basham put up nine respectively.

“Natalie is obviously our ‘go-to’ kid and they set up on her well. We talked about learning to score in different ways and I think Natalie was really listening to us and kind of putting the ball where it should be,” Walker said of the senior’s efforts. “Payton is a freshman who stepped in with an injury we had and she just has no fear. She is going to get really good as our season goes on and I think she’ll thrive in it. She just does not know how to be scared and that is really exciting for us because we just have to have somebody who goes out there and puts it away for us.”

Camdenton will be back in action on Thursday for a battle at Rock Bridge at 6 p.m. Whatever the rest of the season has in store for the Lakers, Walker said the team will embark on the journey together.

“We are going to win as a team and lose as a team so we learn from this and get to work in practice tomorrow,” the coach said. “We have a chance to get another win this week and we just have to keep getting better as the season goes along. I believe it because I’ve got kids that work hard and I’ve got great ‘volleyball-smart’ kids we are not used to having so I think we’ll be fine. It is just a bump in the road.”

Meanwhile, Eldon will seek to remain unbeaten when the Mustangs host Mexico for the home opener on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

“We are just going to have to keep the same energy that we have and we are going to have to push through every ball and every play,” Graham said of the task ahead. “Nothing drops. Everybody has to hustle for the ball, do their jobs and keep everything nice and consistent. I think we are going to have a really good season.”