Three Rivers rallies to top Eddies in five sets

Published 8:10 am Friday, September 15, 2023

THREE RIVERS — Thursday’s Wolverine Conference volleyball match between visiting Edwardsburg and Three Rivers had everything you could ask for.

A big crowd, huge plays at the net, enthusiastic student support, long rallies, thunderous kills, stubborn defense and the intensity inside the gym made it feel more like a postseason matchup.

Edwardsburg jumped out to an early two-set advantage before dropping a 25-17, 25-20, 20-25, 16-25, 13-15 decision to Three Rivers.

Sarah Strefling’s Eddies are now 1-1 in the conference and 10-7 overall. Three Rivers remains unbeaten in the league at 2-0.

“Once we lost momentum in the third and fourth games we kind’ve gave up,” Strefling said. “We have seniors, but we are a fairly young team on the court. This team has to build their confidence and know that we have to rely on 13 players to win instead of just one or two. That’s going to be something that we will get better at. I’m confident that growth will continue to take place. We could see them (Three Rivers) again in districts and it will be interesting to see how we are playing then. That’s what we are working for.”

Early on, Edwardsburg appeared like it would make short work of Three Rivers in the Lady Cats’ home opener.

The Lady Eddies never trailed in the opening game. Senior Lanie Glass scored a point for Three Rivers off a tip to make it 1-1, but it was all Edwardsburg after that. The Lady Eddies enjoyed a 10-point cushion at 19-9 following a kill from sophomore outside hitter Sarah Pippin.

Pippin would later add a key block and delivered a service ace on game point to give the Lady Eddies the first set.

Game two was tied on four separate occasions and Edwardsburg fought back from three deficits before asserting itself. The Lady Eddies faced a late 17-16 deficit in that game before rallying behind the serving and play of junior right-side hitter Drew Glaser and senior libero Danni Purlee.

Glaser had a key kill late in game and Purlee served an ace on the final point to put Edwardsburg up by two games in the match.

“We used the game plan that we came in with in those first couple games,” Strefling said. “We know who our big players are and we wanted to shut Three Rivers down and make them think outside of the box and not get away with just hitting the ball hard. We had to make some adjustments to our lineup at times like freshman Ella Laskowski who played outside hitter for us tonight. She’s never played there before. We are still trying to figure out who we are.

“I saw a lot of really good things tonight from our team. It’s frustrating to lose a conference match like this. I don’t like to lose, but at the end of the day I like that fact that we are continuing to improve.”

With the exception of a quick 1-0 lead, Edwardsburg played from behind in the third game. Laskowski’s cross-court kill tied the score at 9-9. The Lady Cats, however, got critical kills from Jenna Southland and Arabella Mangold to help close the game out.

The two sides were tied four different times early on in game four. A tip by junior defensive specialist Alivia Kuntz put the Lady Eddies in front 6-3.

Three Rivers rallied, however, and regained the lead at 10-9 following a kill and ace from senior Allie McGlothlen.

Edwardsburg never got closer than four points as Three Rivers won the game and evened the match up at 2-2 to force the fifth set.

Three Rivers quickly went up 2-0 in the final set following back-to-back kills from Jenna Southland and Glass.

Regaining its composure, Edwardsburg fought back and went up 5-2. Ella Armock came up with a nice block of a Jenna Southland kill attempt to highlight the Lady Eddies’ run.

Three Rivers clawed its way back though and eventually took the lead again on the serving of Miley Southland. Pippin’s kill down the middle helped the Lady Eddies tie the game at 9-9. But key tips from Glass and Mangold and late kills from McGlothlen helped Three Rivers claim the final game and match.

Glaser, Edwardsburg’s tall hitter, led the Eddies’ attack with 29 kills, three blocks and seven digs.

“Drew did an amazing job for us tonight,” Strefling said. “She has to be able to carry this team on her shoulders when we need her too. She doesn’t play back row during the club season, but stepping into the back row with the six rotations is new to her these last few months. She was a definitely a weapon for us back there and played good defense for us.”

Pippin contributed 16 kills, one block and one ace. Freshman middle blocker Ella Laskowski produced seven kills, four digs and three blocks. Mya Eberlein, a junior middle blocker, totaled three kills and five blocks. Armock, a junior middle blocker, added a pair of kills to go with three blocks.

But the contributions for Edwardsburg didn’t stop there. Senior setter Lexi Schimpa chalked up 50 assists to go with one kills, 12 digs, four blocks and two aces. Senior outside hitter Amaya Shier came up with 15 digs and senior libero Danni Purlee conributed 28 digs to go with one ace.

“Lexi played solid for us at setter. Sarah had good moments for us too. She just needs to figure out how to put the ball down more effectively,” Strefling said.

Three Rivers was led by Jenna Southland with 18 kills, four blocks and seven digs. Mangold pitched in with 11 kills, four blocks, two assists and six digs. Miley Southland contributed 44 assists to go with five kills and six digs. McGlothlen posted four kills, three blocks and four digs. Glass had eight kills and Maddie O’Hara tossed in four kills.

Senior Aliza Munro recorded her 1000th career dig for the Lady Cats. Munro, a four-year varsity letterwinner, ended the night with 17 digs.

Three Rivers first-year head coach Megan Jergens is pleased with where her Lady Cats are following consecutive league wins over Niles and Edwardsburg. Those two schools have been the most difficult for Three Rivers to beat over the past few years.

“Our girls came out rattled early in front of the big crowd which is not a normal thing for us. I just kept reminding them that Edwardsburg would make big hits, but we had to capitalize when they did make a mistake,” Jergens said. “In the final three games, we responded much better to our own mistakes and we established our middle hitters effectively with Arabella and Jenna. That’s a big part of our game. Our other hitters put away a few balls for us as well. The scrappy play and improvement of our serve-receive allowed us to come back and win tonight.”