CENTERVILLE — Was it the 13-day layoff or the quality of the competition?
Tom Hill wasn't looking to point the fingers at any particular reason. In fact, the head coach of the Centerville volleyball team only pointed the finger at himself after the Redettes had a seven-match winning streak snapped on Monday with losses to Keokuk (25-15, 26-24) and Kirksville (25-15, 19-25, 15-6) at Lakeview Gymnasium.
"I think we could have practiced a little better last week. I'll take the blame for that," Hill said. "It just didn't seem like we played together very well. Our chemistry wasn't nearly what it was. We had a lot of positive things going before we had last week entirely off. Give Keokuk and Kirksville a lot of credit. Both teams played really well and we didn't help ourselves out."
It wasn't just seven straight matches that Centerville had won entering Monday's home triangular. The Redettes hadn't lost a set since their last loss to Williamsburg back on Sept. 12, winning 16 consecutive sets to move over .500 for the first time since opening the season with a three-set win over Wapello in the WACO tournament quarterfinals.
That seventh straight win came in an SCC sweep against Clarke back on Sept. 22. The Redettes had last week, Homecoming Week at Centerville, completely open before returning to the floor on Monday seeking an eighth and ninth consecutive win.
Early on, Centerville (11-12) looked be picking up right where they left off. Abigail White, Kiya Moore and Rachel George all scored points at the net for the Redettes before an ace by Emma Weber opened an early 8-4 lead against Keokuk.
That's when Miracle Ailes began to take over, scoring two kills on three swings over the next four points as the Chiefs began to pick up steam. Ace serves by Kayleigh Zanger and Kayde Martin kept the rally going with a pair of kills by Keleigh Hall cutting Centerville's lead to 13-12.
Ailes delivered her second of five kills in the opening set to tie the score at 13-13. Hall and Abigail Thompson added a block as Keokuk suddenly opened a 16-13 lead with Hall delivering two kills and three consecutive aces during a 14-2 run that clinched the set for the 5-14 Chiefs.
"We had to shake up the line-up. We've got two kids that are still out on quarantine," Keokuk head volleyball coach Randy Loges said. "We actually had reservations about coming here. It's a two-hour bus ride, but we felt like Centerville and Kirksville would provide us with some quality competition."
Centerville's quick 3-0 lead in the second set against the Chiefs was quickly erased as Keokuk as Ailes continues to find the open court, tipping volleyballs over block attempts and slamming full swings off the Redette blockers. Keokuk gradually edged ahead and had a pair of match points at 25-15, 24-22.
With her team's winning streak in severe jeopardy, Moore came to the rescue with a tying tip following a long serve by the Chiefs to erase Keokuk's lead. Thompson earned a third match point for Keokuk with a tip at the net only for Moore to respond with her ninth kill on a tip, again keeping the Redettes alive to force a third set.
"You always want to have the mindset that you'll do whatever it takes for your team," Moore said.
Ailes ended those hopes. After a serve into the net by the Redettes, Ailes finished a rally off by hammering her 10th kill home to officially end Centerville's long winning streak.
"This team doesn't really give up. It's not an emotional team, so they tend to stick with it in tough games," Loges said of the Chiefs. "I think, in about every game, we dug a little hole. We just stuck with it every time, remained calm throughout and came back. Our girls don't get rattled too easily."
Keokuk finished a perfect night in Centerville off with a tough 29-27, 25-21 win over Kirksville. The Tigers were able to fight off three set points in each of the games before Keokuk put away both games on the fourth attempt each time to do so.
Kirksville (9-11) rallied behind Abby Rueschel and Emily Middleton in the final match of the night. Rueschel collected 15 kills, many coming in the first two sets, while Middleton helped the Tigers secure a three-set win over the Redettes with five of her 14 kills coming in the decisive third set for the Missouri school.
"It was pretty tough. Kirksville moved the ball around differently than anything we've seen all season," said Moore after leading Centerville with 20 kills, including 11 against Kirksville. "I think it was beneficial to get the work in last week in practice. It probably didn't help us coming back for these two matches, but we found out what we need to do to get things done during our winning streak. I think we've become more of a team over the past three weeks."