Eldon volleyball wins 11th straight game in four sets over Bolivar

MICHAEL LOSCH, Lake Sun Sports Editor
Eldon junior Caroline Beckmann (center) celebrates with her teammates after a point in a game against Bolivar on Tuesday, October 20, in Eldon. The Mustangs have won 11 straight and 24 of their past 25 sets.

There is an expectation at Eldon and it is simply to win.

The Mustangs have been doing plenty of that lately and did so once again on Tuesday night as the team defeated Bolivar in four sets for the program’s 11th straight win.

“We don’t come out playing to try and fight. We come out expecting we are going to win and play like we know how to accomplish that,” Eldon senior Addie Davis said.

Well, the team has certainly been proving it on the court and it is a good place to be in the final stretch of the season with one game left before district play gets underway next week.

“They are getting tougher. They are getting tougher mentally, physically and emotionally,” Eldon coach Melinda Wrye-Washington said of the winning streak. “They are learning valuable lessons in games and that team (Bolivar) beat us pretty badly at Bolivar last year and it was pretty much the same team. I feel like we’ve really taken a step forward, both offensively and defensively, since even the middle of our season.”

Eldon has not just been winning games, but doing so convincingly. The Mustangs actually entered Tuesday night’s matchup with the Liberators having won 21 straight sets and the team won the first set Tuesday night 25-18 to make it 22 straight. Eldon led by as many as eight points in the first set and junior Jade Hall smacked down the set-winning kill to make it happen.

The streak came to an end in the second set as Bolivar built a lead that grew to as many as six points before the Mustangs started to close the gap. Trailing 24-22, there was a controversial call of a Bolivar serve going out of bounds near the end line and with no clear ruling there were no point awarded on the play and the Liberators quickly secured the next point to take the set, 25-22.

“We do not take losing very well and don’t like to lose. Melinda Wrye-Washington does not like to lose, either,” Eldon junior Caroline Beckmann said with a smile on her face.

And it certainly showed in the final two sets.

The Mustangs jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead in set three and led by as many as 13 points, closing the set on a 4-0 run to win it, 25-12, on senior Taylor Henderson’s service ace. Eldon continued to cruise in set four, scoring 13 unanswered points and executing an 8-1 run down the final stretch to win it, 25-4 after Beckmann’s service ace sealed it. Winning 24 of the past 25 sets does not sound so bad, either.

“There is a lot of teamwork. We work in practice and serving and passing is stressed a lot,” Beckmann said of her team’s ability to play well together. “Just encouraging each other because we are all going to have off games, but we know that when someone has an off night your teammate is there to pick you up. Just encouraging each other a lot on and off the court.”

Beckmann led Eldon’s offensive attack with 26 kills while Hall added nine, senior Cassidy Prater added eight and Henderson finished with seven while both Davis and sophomore Haley Henderson contributed three kills each. Haley served four aces for the Mustangs while junior Tatum Frank and Beckmann both had three and Taylor added two of her own. Davis continually fueled the attack with 46 assists. Haley and Frank led the defense with 11 digs each while Beckmann added nine and Taylor had six and Beckmann also finished with three blocks.

Wrye-Washington noted that Beckmann had rolled her ankle the previous night in practice and while no injury is a good one, the coach noted that it may have raised the level of play around the returning All-State junior as Beckmann adjusted her game not being completely 100 percent.

“I feel like we did a nice job of stepping up around Caroline tonight and I feel like everyone played well. Taylor played well, Addie set up a tremendous offense and kept everyone off balance and the middles (middle hitters) are getting better,” the coach said, also giving credit to Beckmann for coming out and playing. “We’ve focused a lot on our middle hitter play, being on time and making the offense work, so I really felt like Jade and Cassidy pushed that tempo and kept the other team off balance. Our serving game was great, too. We hit that up all week and I told them going into districts we really need to focus on our serving and passing so just all-around a good game.

“I am proud of them. We are learning and getting better.”

It was Eldon’s final game of the season on home floor and Davis was certainly glad that she could walk off with a win.

“I don’t think I’d be coming out of it with as much as a positive outlook as I am right now if we would have lost that game,” the senior stated.

“It has definitely been a journey. I mean, we’ve had a lot of downs but also our ups have been awesome recently. We’ve grown so much as a team and I’m just really proud of everybody.”

Quite a journey, considering the set streak and winning streak Eldon is currently enjoying has come in the middle of a pandemic and a fair amount of uncertainty as volleyball nears its conclusion in 2020. Despite the uncertain times, Wrye-Washington said the leadership of seniors such as Davis, Prater and Henderson have made a big difference on and off the court.

“I think the future is bright. The seniors going out have provided the freshman group with a lot of leadership and have been good role models for each position because they all play a different position,” the coach noted. “I feel like they’ve been good leaders and have been really patient with those young freshmen in practice, bringing them along slowly. They are all excellent students, they are all on track to graduate with their associate’s degrees and Cassidy is battling for valedictorian right now. We are in a good situation, both academically and athletically, and that is the best role model you can ask for.”

Eldon (22-4-1, 5-2 Tri-County Conference) will look to close out the regular season on a 12-game winning streak at Helias Catholic (23-4-2) on Thursday at 5 p.m.

“I obviously have a great deal of respect for Dave Harris and I have recruited out of his program for years when I was at the college level,” Wrye-Washington said of the Helias Catholic coach and his program. “I know how they practice, I know how they train and the depth they have. I knew that would be a great game for us going to districts to have that competitive level.”

Looking ahead, the Mustangs will be the top seed in the Class 3 District 9 Tournament at Osage next week where Eldon will face the winner of No. 4 Warsaw and No. 5 Versailles in the district semifinals on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. California and Osage will meet in the other district semifinal following Eldon’s game.

“Just stay healthy and be fundamentally sound in everything we’ve learned through both hard lessons and games,” Wrye-Washington said of getting ready for the postseason. “Then, just reputation in practice to go out and execute that in districts.”