Mohawks serve up five-set win

Moravia freshman Finley Spencer lines up a serve during the fourth-set of a Bluegrass Conference volleyball match at Moulton-Udell High School on Thursday. After a six-point service run helped force a fifth and decisive set, Spencer had five late aces to help the Mohawks clinch a 27-29, 25-18, 23-25, 25-11, 25-8 win over the Eagles.

MOULTON — With their backs to the wall on Thursday night, the Moravia volleyball team relied on a basic fundamental that any team needs to master in hopes of having success.

“You’ve got to get those serves in,” Mohawk head coach Rachel Helmick said. “You can’t win a point if you don’t get those serves across.”

Serving rallied Moravia from a 2-1 deficit at Moulton-Udell, who had two chances to clinch the first win of the season for the second time this week. Finley Spencer’s six-point service run helped Moravia open a 14-7 lead in the fourth set before the freshman racked up five aces in the fifth and decisive set to help Moravia earn a 27-29, 25-18, 23-25, 25-11, 15-8 win over the Eagles in a battle of Bluegrass Conference rivals.

“It was pretty stressful, but we just had to keep our heads up and have those good attitudes,” Spencer said. “Keeping ourselves hyped up and excited keeps everyone excited throughout the match. You have to get yourself going. Having confidence serving the ball really helps with that.”

Moravia improves to 3-3 on the season, all wins over Bluegrass rivals including a season-opening sweep of M-U at home and a five-set win over Twin Cedars last week. The Mohawks have been pushed to a decisive set in three of their six matches so far this season, losing a three-set match to Colfax-Mingo in a three-set match at a triangular in Southeast Warren back on Sept. 1.

“Having that much time on the court and having that time on the court in junior varsity matches helps you prepare for those moments,” Spencer said. “It’s stressful, but it’s also a lot of fun.”

The Eagles, now 0-5 on the season, put themselves in position to earn that first breakthrough win for the second time in four days by winning two of the first three sets. Paige Hackathorn had a key kill and a late dig as M-U finally put away the opening set thanks to three straight Mohawk hitting errors. After winning a tight third set, the Eagles were in the same situation they found themselves in Monday night at Twin Cedars after going ahead 25-20, 12-25, 25-18 against the Sabers.

“We get so close and we’re almost there to close it out,” M-U head volleyball coach Abby Swarts said. “I’m really proud of how far we’ve come this early in the season. Once we get everything down and ready to finish these matches, I think we’ll be something to watch.”

Jillian French led the Sabers with nine kills and five ace serves on Monday, helping Twin Cedars battle back to win a thrilling five-set match with M-U. After a 26-24 win in the fourth set, the Sabers edged the Eagles 15-13 on Monday in the decisive fifth set.

Ali Mockenhaupt kept Twin Cedars (1-5, 1-1 Bluegrass) alive in several points, collecting 20 of the 50 digs in the five sets for the Sabers. Chloe Swank added four blocks as the Sabers narrowly avoided a four-set loss before finally securing the win on the 203rd point of the match.

Hackathorn led Moulton-Udell with four kills and four digs in the loss at Twin Cedars. The Eagles (0-5, 0-3 Bluegrass) got three winners from Alyssa Boenning in the fifth set to keep pace with the Mohawks as the teams split the first 10 points.

“The girls have all put the work in at practice every day,” Swarts said. “I think that shows in the way we’ve improved even from where we were early in the season. It shows that the girls are still dedicated to learning how to play as a team. Now, we just need to learn how to finish as a team.”

The final decisive run came after a side-out forced by Kaelie Anderson, who had five aces in the fourth set for the Mohawks, put the serve in the hands of Spencer. Like Anderson, Spencer sent five serves over the net that were not returned allowing Moravia to open a 10-5 lead. Callie Benjamin and Hoffman added late kills to clinch the comeback win for the Mohawks.

“We switched in Gracie to serve in that fourth set. Those adjustments really seemed to make the difference,” Helmick said. “We were making some errors in those first three games that we really shouldn’t make. I knew I had to switch some things up and give them a different look at us. I did and it paid off.”

Both Moravia and M-U next compete at Cardinal. While the Mohawks will wait until a triangular on Monday with the Comets and Van Buren County as the Moravia Fall Festival takes place this weekend, the Eagles will be part of Cardinal’s five-team home tournament on Saturday joining Centerville, Seymour and Twin Cedars.

“I think we’re due for a few wins,” Swarts said. “There are going to be some bigger schools there. It should put us to the test.”

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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