Wednesday November 6, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
BRIER BUMPS — Molly Brier keeps a volley alive during Eden’s three-game sweep of Southwestern on Monday. Photo courtesy of David Eckhardt.
It may have looked like a typical sectional title win for Eden, as the girls volleyball team earned a straight set victory for a 15th consecutive championship, but it didn’t feel that way for head coach Stephen Pierce.
He said that the team was challenged by an athletic Southwestern that took the early lead in games one and three. However, Eden was just too good down the stretch of each game and during a dominant second game. The second-seeded Raiders fought back for a 25 – 22 win in game one, then finished off the match 25 – 9, 25 – 16. During game three, Eden trailed 11 – 5.
“We actually know a number of the Southwestern girls – they’ve come to our volleyball camps and we knew they were good athletes,” Pierce said. “We figured they would come in with nothing to lose and they did, especially in the first game.”
The expectations for an Eden program aiming for a fifth straight state title, Pierce admitted, can get a little heavy even for a program used to playing in big matches.
“The more you win, the longer the streak goes, the more weight it is on your shoulders,” he said. “Sure, there are nerves. The last couple of years, we’ve played against opponents in the finals that we had seen earlier in the year, but we had never seen [Southwestern].”
But four-time state champions Lainy Pierce and Heather Holscher helped answer the call, when Southwestern amped up the pressure, early in the match. Pierce ran off a nine-point serving streak in Game One, while Holscher guided the offense on her way to a match-high 15 kills. The Penn State-bound Pierce, the team’s setter, finished with 38 assists and five service aces and Holscher added two aces.
“You never know what’s going to get thrown at you in these matches and I think our girls are realizing that,” Lainy Pierce said. “Nerves are always going to hit you and I feel like they hit some of younger girls, but you have to have the ability to bounce right back.”
Stephen Pierce also credited freshman libero Molly Brier for her play, and junior Megan Ballou, for adding seven kills and two blocks.
Eden moved on to the regional on Nov. 6 at Sweet Home. With a win, the raiders would move on the state semifinal qualifier on Saturday, Nov. 9. Pierce said that he has no idea what teams lie ahead, which should make it an interesting road for Eden, the rest of the way.
“Each year, it means more [to win a sectional title],” Lainy Pierce said. “Going to states, each year, is a goal. There’s excitement and pressure; we want a state title so badly.”