CENTRAL HEIGHTS — Coming off a long holiday weekend, the ninth-ranked Central Heights Lady Blue Devils looked sluggish early on against Elysian Fields. But after falling in the first set, 19-25, the Lady Devils came alive, winning two dominating straight sets, 25-8, 25-11, then lost in set four, 22-25, before claiming the 3-2 win here in Russell Gymnasium with a 15-9 victory.
It was as if it was almost two different teams on the court from the first set to the second as Central Heights (24-6) struggled in the opening set, but then got on track.
“In our first set we had 16 hitting errors,” said Lady Blue Devil head coach Logan Smoak. “So when you’re scoring a majority of points for the other team you’re not going to win a ballgame. Hitting errors and service errors plagued us early on, but fortunately were able to straighten that our and come back.”
One of the reasons the Lady Blue Devils were able to turn it around was their front line. Chloe Cook punished the Elysian Fields defense with 37 kills, adding four blocks and 21 assists. Laura Bradford added 10 kills and Britton Arrant added nine.
“It helps when you have three options across the net, because it keeps the blockers guessing and we can good contacts all around, and that helps the team,” Smoak added. “Most people know we’re going to Chloe and Laura on the front row, but if we can get a kill out of the middle or right side that helps the offense a lot. And that’s what we did tonight.”
Smoak said she didn’t make any drastic changes in strategy after the opening set loss, just told her players to play their game.
“We just went in after set one and settled down,” she said. “I think we looked a little scared to play at times early on. We were coming off a long weekend and didn’t practice and we were just trying to get back in the gym. It took us awhile to get in the groove of things.
“In set two it looked like we were controlling the ball a little better and we were super aggressive on serves and that got them out of system a lot and run our offense. And when we run our offense we look like a pretty good team.”
Central Heights struggled putting together any solid runs in the opening set, but that wasn’t the story in set two, as the Lady Blue Devils scored 10 of the first 14 points to take a 10-4 lead. The Lady Yellowjackets pulled to within 13-8 at one point, but the Lady Devils came back to score the final 12 points to roll to the 24-8 win and tie the match at 1-1 Cook helped lead the way with three kills, while Bradford added two of her own during the final run.
Central Heights took up in the third set where they left off in the second, scoring seven of the first nine points, with Bradford and Cook attacking at the net and Arrant recording a pair of service aces.
The Lady Jackets cut the deficit to 12-6 at one point, but Ellie Davis, Arrant, Cook and Bradford helped finish off the set with a 13-5 run for a 25-11 win and a 2-1 lead. Bradford also posted a pair of service aces in the mix.
Elysian Fields was able to tie the match at 2-2 by claiming a hard-fought 25-22 win in set four. The score was tied 21-21 late, and after a timeout EFHS scored four of the next five points.
“After the fourth set we looked a little and sluggish and we got tired and our service receive went down the drain,” Smoak said. “So in the huddle before set five we talked about going into the last set and controlling what we can, add some energy in every single ball and pushing all the way through to the end.”
The Lady Blue Devils scored six of the first eight points of the final set, and after Elysian Fields pulled to within 12-9, Cook slammed home three straight kills to end the match.
Emily Petty helped the offensive attack for Central Heights with 35 assists and two kills, Grace Haley added a kill and three assists, Lainee Clement produced six kills and a block and Davis had four kills.