In the early stages of the first set of Monday’s non-conference match between Hall and Marquette in Spring Valley, the Lady Red Devils looked like the team with only four losses.
Hall built a nine-point lead behind three kills from Meghan Bernardoni, a kill from Lily Orlandi and nine Lady Crusaders’ errors.
After a timeout, Marquette refocused and came back for a 25-21, 25-18 road victory.
“They can out jump us. There is no doubt about that. All of their kids are taller and when they started coming down and grabbing and pushing the ball, we couldn’t stop that,” said Hall coach Demi Salazar about Hall losing the first set despite having a 12-3 lead. “That’s just too high for us. It kind of messes up the defense.
“Marquette did it well. They didn’t do anything wrong, we just needed to keep it away from those kids. We did in the beginning and our defense didn’t falter. I don’t know if we blew one serve-receive pass — I’ll have to watch — but I don’t remember one. That keeps you in the game or it could have been a blowout.”
Marquette’s Grace Jeanblanc and Aubrey McCallum stepped up as two of the Lady Crusaders Hall was trying to keep the ball from. Jeanblanc finished with a match-high 16 kills and two blocks, while McCallum tallied 10 kills.
Emma Thomas played her part with 31 assists and Addie McConnaughhay had 20 digs.
“I’m not even sure why, but we were just a little flat coming in,” Marquette coach Mindy McConnaughhay said. “We were coming off of a big win against Winnebago (25-22, 25-23 on Monday). I don’t know if it was just a lot of emotions in a super close game. It was ugly to start. I want to give them credit because they bounced back.
“We put a challenge to them and told them to focus and start playing our game. They did a good job. It was ugly and then we figured it out.”
Hall hung with Marquette (20-4) in the second set as there were three ties early on and the Lady Cru never led by more than six points.
However, Jeanblanc went on quite the run at the end of the set with three kills and a block to secure four of the last five points.
“We got a little complacent here and there and you saw a couple of mental errors, but in the end, they buckled down and finished pretty strong,” McConnaughhay said. “Hall is a good, scrappy team. Anytime you play Demi, you know they’re going to be a scrappy team and they’re going to play a fast offense. I joke with him about him being old because he used to coach me.
“I thought our defense was awesome. Addie (McConnaughhay) was everywhere. She had (20) digs and she was great for us defensively. We needed that and that was kind of the spark that got us going. They kept serving to her and I was happy with that because she did a good job.”
Bernardoni led the Lady Red Devils with six kills, while Maddy Hultz had 11 digs and Gia Pozzi and Orlandi each had five assists.
Salazar is happy with how his team is playing as the Lady Red Devils are making each opponent fight for wins instead of being an easy opponent.
“I thought our kids moved well. There are a couple of attack areas that we hit in the beginning that we didn’t hit at the end,” Salazar said. “We have to make sure their defense spreads out.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.