Rather than letting their Lake area neighbors gain even more momentum heading into a third and final set, the Lakers decided to close the door with three straight points and a service ace from sophomore Payton Kincaid sealed it 25-23 to give Camdenton a win in the season opener.

Camdenton found a way to close it out.

After comfortably winning the opening set of 2019 in Eldon 25-12 Tuesday night, the Lakers found a more resilient Mustang group in set two that erased an 8-point gap and took a late 23-22 lead. Rather than letting their Lake area neighbors gain even more momentum heading into a third and final set, the Lakers decided to close the door with three straight points and a service ace from sophomore Payton Kincaid sealed it 25-23 to give Camdenton a win in the season opener.

“I think our team this year has a pretty positive outlook on getting down,” Kincaid said after Eldon made its push in the second set. “We really stay together, keep each other upbeat, just say ‘We got this’ and take it one point at a time.”

The conclusion was a little closer than Camdenton coach Austin Walker would have liked, but the good thing is that the errors are something her own team can control and eliminating them in the future can put the team in fewer tense situations. There is a lot of volleyball left to be played to correct those early mistakes.

“I don’t know if we got too complacent. We had so many errors right there in a row so our message to them was that we cannot make three or four errors in a row because that is going to kill us, especially when we get into conference play,” the coach noted. “Those people feed off that.”

Thankfully, the Laker bench was ready to go when called upon and Walker commended their efforts.

“Clare Holmes went in, played front row and did a great job for us. Luckily, we are in a position that if we have someone who is making errors we can put someone in for them,” the coach stated. “Our lesson has to be when we are up like that we have to finish. Be able to side out, get to the next point, rotate and go from there.”

Ultimately, Walker said the mindset is being the first team to reach any given 5-point interval.

“We preach five at a time,” she said. “If you can get up three points on somebody that is huge. Our mentality is that nobody gets to score more than three points on us in a row.

“It is almost like small races and small victories.”

And while one team was getting a good lesson in how to finish, the other was learning how to get off to better starts and eliminate a few errors of their own. It was a good first test for a young Eldon team with no seniors, three juniors and a lot of underclassmen. New coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said there were a few errors at unfortunate times, but the volleyball IQ is consistently growing.

“We are learning as we go and the girls are really picking it up quick. I’m really proud of them for some of the things they are trying,” she noted. “They are trying new things and really working hard together so I just think it is a matter of the volleyball IQ increasing. I think we have the athleticism to be able to play, but the volleyball IQ needs to come up a little bit still.”

Wrye-Washington- an Eldon alumnus who helped the Mustangs reach four straight Final Fours during her playing days and later went on to coach NAIA Columbia College for 19 years where she was 677-107 with seven national title appearances and two national titles- was glad to be back on the sidelines in the maroon and gold leading her old team.

“It is exciting to be back and good to have a nice gym full of people that I know and am familiar with. It is a little distracting for me because I have seen so many people that I have not seen in such a long time,” the coach said with a smile.

“Im excited for the girls. We are very young obviously out there on the court so we are still learning. I’m not sure about our results and how we’ll be this year, but I know that we are improving steadily so far.”

Another thing the young Mustang team showed their new coach was some grit as well, fighting back from an 8-point deficit in set two and nearly pushing the game to a third and final set.

“It took them a while to get going, but the composure they were able to regain in the middle of set two and to fight and show that grit- I think as we become more consistent and our volleyball IQ increases, that grit is going to start to show more and more,” Wrye-Washington said. “I’m really proud of all of them. All of the girls came in, contributed and were able to turn things around there in the middle of the match.”

That grit was noticed by the opposing side as well.

“Nat all of our team plays club ball together, but we’ve seen some of them in club ball and it is kind of fun getting to play some smaller schools,” Kincaid said of Eldon. “They bring pretty good competition and scrappy plays.”

Freshman Haley Henderson posted eight kills, sophomore Caroline Beckmann had three and junior Addie Davis recorded 16 assists to lead Eldon’s attack. Meanwhile, both Henderson and sophomore Tatum Frank led the defense with six digs each and Beckmann had four while junior Taylor Henderson had a part in three blocks.

The Camdenton offense was paced by senior Megan Vest and junior Jackie White who had six kills each while Kincaid posted five. Junior Sydney Smith had 12 assists to fuel the attack and Holmes finished with six.

“A couple of girls are asked to do a lot but I feel super comfortable with Payton in there because I know no matter what it is going to be an aggressive swing,” Walker said of the sophomore who delivered the final game-winning kill. “It might be an error but she is going to get up and try to get a kill for us. I felt like she did a really good job of calling for that ball, wanting to be that person and I think our setters are really comfortable with her and Megan both up there in the front row.”

Senior Shelby Kurtz led the Laker defense with seven digs and fellow senior Aubree Enos put up five while White finished with three total blocks. Walker commended the efforts of Kurtz to keep the ball in play as well as White’s blocking at the net.

“We have been on her about her job to block and I felt like she did not get the most perfect sets at times but she found a way to put the ball on the court,” Walker said.

“I felt like she blocked super well keeping her hands high and putting us in a good position defensively.”

Camdenton (1-0) will host its home opener against Columbia Rock Bridge on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. For Walker, the biggest goal moving forward is consistency against what she called a tough Bruins team.

“When you make an error you have to be able to look at somebody and say, ‘Set me again’ or ‘I made the mistake’ and keep doing it. That comes a long with not letting people go on runs and not getting errors so we’ve just been preaching that we have to be consistent all season,” she said.

Eldon (0-1) will be back on the court on September 12 against California at 7:30 p.m. For Wrye-Washington, the task moving forward is building a culture where everyone is accountable for doing their jobs and coming together as a team.

“It is hard for young players to get that concept and the fact that wins don’t just happen- they are earned,” the coach noted. “They are earned first individually and then as a team so they hopefully learned that a little bit tonight.”