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FC volleyball plays even with visiting Greensburg

By John Estridge, Sports Editor

Throw out Franklin County's first set against Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference rival Greensburg Saturday morning, Sept. 8, and the Lady Wildcats played nearly even with their taller visitors in a volleyball matchup.

However, that first game counted as did the close scores from the other two sets, leaving the Lady Pirates with a three-set sweep of the Wildcats, 25-9, 25-23, 25-23.

The Wildcats were never in the first set, scoring only two points off serves.

“It takes some of them longer to adapt to the level the game,” FC coach Jill Mergenthal said. “They don't all set out with a high speed of intensity.”

Greensburg ruled the net in the first set.

“Where I am finding us short is actually in our front-row players' height,” Mergenthal said. “My right-side hitters are also the opposing teams' left-side/strong-side hitters. With that being said, we are not able to block those opponent hitters and take some pressure off the back row.”

Then, set two was a 180-degree change. The Wildcats intensely battled for every point. Neither team seemed to be able to score off services as long rallies led to side outs. According to Mergenthal, she had to figure out how to negate the Pirate height advantage at the net.

“I told the girls that I was changing the lineup and to bear with me, but I saw the problem,” Merg-enthal said. “So, as the game started, I sat in front of the team matching up my front-row blockers with their front-row hitters. After about three rotations, I had it figured out. I placed sophomore, junior varsity player Makayla Richardson in the front row on the right side to shut down Greensburg's outside hitter and to double block their middle hitter with senior Meredith Bohman. It worked, and it made passing easier because the hit was slowed down by Meredith and Makayla.”

FC held a 15-12 lead when Pirate senior Mary West led a three-point explosion by the visitors, tying the score 15-15. One of her points came on an ace serve.

However, the Wildcats did not fold and kept even with the Pirates until it was 23-23. Greensburg got the serve, bringing West to the line once again. Her teammate junior Audrey Lawson won her team's 24th point with a thundering kill before West finished the set with an ace.

“I really thought we had set two,” Mergenthal said. “There were a lot of inconsistencies with calls. Between the net shaking and doubles being called, it's really hard to say who really won set two and sadly set three.”

After sticking with the visitors through the first part of set three, the Pirates seemed to have the final set in hand, going from a 7-6 Wildcat advantage to scoring the next 13 points to take a commanding 19-7 lead.

During the run, Pirate junior Raegan Rigney ruled the service line with 12 straight points, including three ace serves. Her fellow junior Aliyah Evans had her way at the middle of the net, ringing up four kills during the run.

“Yes, giving credit where credit is due: They have a very strong front row and their senior server (Rigney) has an amazing jump serve,” Mergenthal said.

Mergenthal had attempted to blunt the Pirate momentum with a timeout early in the run. It came to no avail. However, the officials inadvertently did that with a long delay concerning the Wildcat substitutions. At one point, the officials were going to take a service away from the Wildcats and give a point to the Pirates, but then it ended with the official apparently confusing Greensburg subs for FC subs.

But when action resumed, the momentum was in the home team's court.

Senior Megan Getz went to the service line and held court for seven straight points, added to the original side out that put the game at 20-15. A side out briefly slowed the Wildcats but then another side out brought junior Rachel Bischoff to the service line. She had four points while serving for the Wildcats. Her final service point was an ace.

During those runs, Bohman, Richardson and senior Jenna Orschell all took control of the net.

“Bohman doesn't get intimidated ... she only gets a bigger rush of adrenaline,” Mergenthal said. “Senior, Megan Getz told me that Meredith is on fire, and she wanted to keep feeding her the ball.”

FC narrowed the Pirate advantage to 24-23 on an Orschell kill. However, Pirate junior Audrey Lawson won the game for the visitors with a kill.

“I don't feel that we lost,” Mergenthal said. “I told the team that to lose this way, as tough as we played, it's really only a loss in the books.”

While Mergenthal said the Wildcats can play with anyone, it is difficult getting that message through to the athletes on her team.

“The hardest part in coaching is getting the girls to believe in themselves,” Mergenthal said. “They have the talent and knowledge of the game but keeping them from getting upset with themselves, it's tough. I am always telling them to let it go (a bad pass or a bad hit) and volleyball is a game of mistakes. We will all have mistakes, but we just have to let them go and get them out of our heads. If we focus on the bad, we will continue to make errors.”