By PAUL HINES
Mt. Vernon’s volleyball team appeared to be cruising toward a regional final appearance Wednesday night against the Annies.
The Lady Rams won the opening game in convincing fashion, but Centralia rallied to win the final two games and take the match. The Annies won 10-25, 25-16, 25-16.
“They started to come back that third game, and I thought we were going to get them,” Mt. Vernon coach Angie Carroll said. “I could see their facial expressions change that third game, that they knew that they wanted it.”
The Lady Rams rolled through the first game, jumping out to a quick lead on the strength of Aaliyah Palmer’s serving. Palmer had a pair of aces as Mt. Vernon took a 5-0 advantage before Centralia’s first sideout.
Mt. Vernon built the early lead into a double digit advantage as Kelby Kujawa knocked an ace to give her team a 13-2 edge. Centralia never made a run to close the gap, and Kujawa gave Molly Koester a chance to serve for game point after a kill. Koester ended the game with an ace.
Despite the victory in the opening game, the Lady Rams weren’t able to carry much momentum into the second.
“I feel like our team has gotten so much more mentally tough than we used to be,” Centralia coach Angie Edson said. “Because before we would have just folded.”
Centralia rushed to a quick lead after three straight aces, and the Lady Rams committed numerous hitting errors that hampered any comeback attempt. The Annies built a 7-1 advantage, and Mt. Vernon never recovered.
“I don’t think we were overconfident that second game,” Carroll said. “I think we just got nervous.
“They really wanted to win. They really wanted to move on.”
The decisive game started the same as the second with Centralia taking a 10-2 lead after Kirsten McGowen shot went wide. Centralia’s Lyndee Lockwood served an ace that gave the Annies their biggest lead of the game at 18-6.
Carroll called a timeout, and her team responded with six straight points to close the deficit to 18-12. Koester contributed a kill, and Palmer added two more aces during the run.
“I thought we had a chance to come back,” Carroll said. “Because we came back (against) Wayne City. It was like 17-5, and we came back and beat them. I knew that they could do it.”
Koester got the Lady Rams to within five points after an ace, but Mt. Vernon couldn’t get any closer.
The Lady Rams finished the season 16-11.