MENDOTA – St. Bede coach Abbi Bosnich wasn’t about to let her volleyball team use the crutch of missing a key player as an excuse for its poor start Wednesday night against the host Mendota Spikers.
Playing without senior standout Elaina Wamhoff, the trigger to its offense as setter, St. Bede fell behind 9-4 quickly in the first set when Bosnich called a timeout and laid into her team during the break.
The St. Bede volleyballers fell behind 15-5 and rallied within one point late at 20-19. In the end, the powerful Spikers proved too much, taking the first set 25-20 and the second 25-21.
Admittedly, first-year Mendota coach Nicci Gibson was unaware of St. Bede’s missing setter, more focused on the play of her team on its side of the net. And she liked what she saw.
“We just play with a total team effort, day in and day out,” said Gibson, a former standout at Hall. “Jaelynn [Fitzgerald] was really hot at the net today, but I have to give our back row credit for their defense and their passes, and then Ella Massey on the sets.
“I just feel like we served hot. Our servers were serving deep and short, deep and short.”
Fitzgerald, Mendota’s tower of power, knocked down 13 kills to lead the Spikers (9-2) at the net. Lauren Martin added five kills and five digs, while Massey dished out 17 assists with nine digs, and Jenna O’Donnell had 13 digs.
Bosnich said Wamhoff had an excused absence to prepare for her club team’s upcoming trip to nationals in the midst of a different season with high school and club seasons overlapping this spring.
“When the season started, we knew a some point this could happen. Her club team is playing in the highest division at nationals and this was the first practice in a couple of weeks all of her team could be there,” Bosnich said. “Just in conversation with her, not that we don’t want to win every game, I’d much rather win a conference game with her there, than a non-conference game with Mendota.”
Junior Grace Maschmann filled in at setter for St. Bede, but didn’t get the word until she arrived in Mendota.
“She served for me last year when I was sophomore coach, and I can’t say enough things about Grace right now,” Bosnich said. “I didn’t tell her last night when I found out, for no reason other than there’s no need to make someone more nervous before. I told her when we got here, and she obviously knew by then, Elaina wasn’t here, and said, ‘I got it coach.’”
But the rest of the St. Bede team didn’t quite have it. Bosnich didn’t like what she saw out of her team at the start of the match, and let them know during the timeout.
“I called the first timeout and said, ‘We’re not down 10-5 because of our setter. We’re not making our serve, we’re not passing; [there’s] no setting errors,’” Bosnich said. “I try to be honest with the kids, and I’m not going to sugarcoat something that’s not there. [If] you’re not doing what I’m asking of you, I’m going to let you know.”
St. Bede (9-3) responded much better after the timeout, cutting a 15-5 deficit in half at 17-12 and 20-15, getting as close as 20-19, helped by a couple Mendota hitting errors.
Elly Buettner served up a couple aces, serving for four on the night, to put Mendota up 23-19. Another failed serve receive by St. Bede gave the Spikers the 25-20 set.
The Spikers also led from start to finish again in the second set, jumping out to leads of 10-4 and 14-9.
A hit by Ryann Stoudt brought St. Bede within 16-13, but a tip by Bailey Baird regained an 18-13 Spikers edge.
Claire Morrow capped a four-point St. Bede run by pushing a ball inside the out-of-bounds marker to bring St. Bede within 18-17.
“I can’t say enough things about Claire. She’s just a versatile player being able to move around the court. She’s done everything I’ve asked of her,” Bosnich said
Noting the play of Marissa Boehm, Lia Bosnich and Stoudt, coach Bosnich added that “the girls did a good job adjusting tonight to a new lineup with no practice.”
An ace by Payton Giordano kept St. Bede in the game at 22-19, but the Spikers closed out the set and match, 25-21.
“It’s always nice to beat a local team. It’s a good win,” Gibson said.
• Note: St. Bede won the sophomore match 25-18, 27-25, with the Mendota freshmen winning 17-25, 25-17, 17-15.