STREATOR – After dropping an exciting, back-and-forth opening set and again playing point-for-point through the midway point of the second to visiting Coal City on Thursday, the Streator Bulldog Spikers hit that hurdle that has been a theme during a current eight-match losing streak in a 26-24, 25-18 Illinois Central Eight Conference loss to the Coalers at Lowell “Pops” Dale Gymnasium.
Now it’s just a matter of making it happen.
“When we stay in our game and we are the aggressor, that’s when we play well and we do well. Sometimes during a match, if an opponent scores a point or two on us, we forget (about staying aggressive) too quickly. I just think it’s a mental block right now.”
— Streator coach Julie Gabehart
“We just need to get a little mentally tougher,” coach Julie Gabehart said. “When we stay in our game and we are the aggressor, that’s when we play well and we do well. Sometimes during a match, if an opponent scores a point or two on us, we forget [about staying aggressive] too quickly.
“I just think it’s a mental block right now.”
Streator (1-10, 0-4 ICE) was led by Mallory Goerne (five kills, four points), Devin Elias (five kills, two blocks, an ace), Hannah Rambo (four kills) and Emma Graves (eight digs). Coal City was paced by Mia Rodriguez (eight kills, a block, six points), Peyton Benson (eight kills), Courtney Meyer (four kills) and Addyson Waliczek (five points, four aces).
“I tell you what, Streator just doesn’t let the ball hit the floor, and they go after everything. We had to earn every point we got,” said Coal City coach Pam McMurtrey, whose team improved to 8-7 overall and 3-1 in the ICE. “I’m happy with the fact that everyone got into the match tonight, and every one of them did something well.
“All night they did a great job of talking, communicating, and they never let down even in some stretches we were down. We were down seven points there in the middle of the first set, but these girls just don’t give in or give up, and that’s what I love about this team.”
Streator used a pair of opening-set kills each from Goerne and Rambo, an ace by Elias, and blocks from the latter duo in combination with a half dozen Coal City hitting errors to push to a 14-8 lead. But a four-point run by the Coalers’ Macaya Garner and an ace by Gwen Wharrie tied the score, 15-all. From there, the squads were deadlocked 10 times until a Streator service error preceded a left-side kill off a block by Coal City’s Addison Gagliardo on set point.
“I have absolutely no complaints about the first set other than a few early mistakes ended up coming back to bite us,” Gabehart said. “On a positive note, all of those early errors to start things off tonight are easily fixable. The second set about midway through, we started to play it safe, tipping and rolling the ball over instead of staying aggressive.”
In the second set, the hosts had an 8-7 lead before a sideout kill by Waliczek and a mini-spurt by Bella Veraveic at the line gave the visitors an 11-8 advantage. Then after Elias and Rodriguez traded winning swings, Waliczek collected five consecutive set-changing points that included four aces.
Streator is next in action at Saturday’s Sandwich Invite, while Coal City is off until hosting Herscher on Tuesday.
“The girls are right on the cusp of turning things around,” Gabehart said. “They just have to start believing in themselves the way I believe in them.”
I worked for 25 years as a CNC operator and in 2005 answered an ad in The Times for a freelance sports writer position. I became a full-time sports writer/columnist for The Times in February of 2016.
I enjoy researching high school athletics history, and in my spare time like to do the same, but also play video games and watch Twitch.