Osage junior Carly Hambly was ready for the moment.
Osage junior Carly Hambly was ready for the moment.
With her team needing just one final point to walk away with a win at Eldon Thursday night, Hambly rose above the net and spiked down the game-winning kill with some force that delivered a win for the Indians in two sets (25-20, 25-22).
"It is pretty great. Everyone wants to have the last kill and I feel like I worked really hard so when something finally pays off it feels really good," said the junior who finished the night with four kills.
"As a team we've been talking about confidence and going up strong, even if it is the game point. It is always about not being afraid, confidence and hitting as hard as you can."
It was a welcome sight for Osage coach Lori Klaus who had been preaching that kind of mindset after a few close games that did not go the way of the Indians. The coach was wanting her team to play more relaxed, not being afraid to take chances, and it was on full display Thursday night.
"I think that is why Carly was so excited because that was a big breakthrough for her tonight just to be able to- on game point- go up and be fearless and hit the ball as hard as she could," Klaus noted. "That was exciting."
Not that her club needed any extra motivation or incentive, though, considering the team on the other side of the net.
"I think every time Osage plays Eldon that rivalry runs deep so they want to win and that desire is automatically there," Klaus noted. "We got focused. We talked a lot about how we are going to stay focused through the whole game and not just start well but be able to finish the game."
Good thing, too, because Eldon did not allow a ton of breathing room.
The first set stayed fairly tight until a 5-0 Osage run allowed the Indians to get ahead by seven points. Eldon managed to cut the gap to three points before junior Paige Rowland delivered the set-winner with a service ace.
The second set featured seven ties and two lead changes and Eldon led by as many as five points before Osage stormed back to take a 16-15 lead and command the set the rest of the night. The Mustangs tied four more times, but never found a way to regain the lead.
"We were telling them some open spots hit on the floor. Sometimes that is hard to do in a long rally," Klaus noted. "Sometimes it is just trying to keep it a live, but I think the girls did a good job of continuing to attack their (Eldon) setter and take them out of the system not allowing their setter to take the second ball. That really worked for us in the first game. Then, we were just passing and serving well, which you pass and serve well and a lot of times you'll come out on top."
Osage junior Sara Wolf led the team with six kills, senior Emily Steen had four service aces and Rowland finished with all 13 of the team's assists to fuel the attack.
"Paige works really hard with me all the time. She stays after, comes in during the summer and works with me so I feel like it is about time we really connect and start putting them away," Hambly said of her setter.
On the defensive end, senior Caitlyne Vaughn paced the Indians with 14 digs while Wolf finished with 10 and senior Emily Dulle put up eight.
"I think defensively and just serve receive wise, Caitlyne was really solid for us as our libero tonight and everyone else just stepped up and did their job so it was a really exciting night for us," Klaus pointed out.
Meanwhile, the team on the other side of the net has seen some better nights.
Eldon coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said the biggest lessons from Thursday night were toughness and eliminating some of the distractions that may come during Homecoming week. A little bit of fatigue may have also weighed on the Mustangs who played their third game of the week that also included a game in Columbia the night before.
"Mental, physical and emotional toughness, we've bee really talking about that," the coach said.
"We are physically tired and the physical part of things is affecting us mentally and emotionally. I think they are just really strung out and all over the place right now."
Fortunately, there is a solution for that and for Wrye-Washingtonit is all part of laying down a solid foundation in her first year leading the program.
"I'm starting from ground level with them. I'm new and we changed everything so we are kind of on a rollercoaster right now until we really get the fundamentals down," she stated. "We are young, too, on top of that.
"I think the solution is just that- repetition with fundamentals and conditioning. They are young players so we are going to have to get physically stronger."
Sophomore Caroline Beckmann led the Mustangs with 11 kills, junior Taylor Henderson finished with six and freshman freshman Hayley Henderson added five to go with two service aces while junior Addie Davis recorded 21 of the team's 22 assists. Beckmann also led the team with 17 digs, sophomore Tatum frank finished with 10 and Haley added six.
"Caroline was not feeling well again and was still able to get on the court and do great things," Wrye-Washington said. "Our setter Addie is getting better and I feel like our defense is getting a little better every day."
Eldon (7-6, 3-3 Tri-County Conference) visits Southern Boone Monday and despite some of the struggles of Thursday night, Wrye-Washington said her team is on the verge.
"I think we are right there... Win or lose right now, I feel like we are accomplishing different things every time we go out and are getting a little bit better," she remarked.
"We are in these games and a couple more steps up and we'll be winning."
Winning is something Osage (5-4, 2-1 Tri-County Conference) will look to do more of, heading into a tournament at Rolla over the weekend. The Indians will come home Monday night to face Skyline.
"I think we can still learn that when we finish a game well, start the second game well," Klaus said of the road ahead. "I think we kind of started that a little rockier so we'll continue to talk about that just staying focused. Seeing that confidence, enjoying that and just being able to carry that out through the postseason."