It’s not how you start — it’s how you finish.
The Danville Vikings volleyball team got off to a very slow start but rallied in each set and returned to the win column Thursday night with a 23-25, 25-23, 26-24 Big 12 Conference victory over the Decatur MacArthur Generals.
“This was a really big win for us,’’ Danville coach Steve Houghton said. “This was our fist win in conference over someone other than Eisenhower in — I don’t know how long. We knew coming in tonight this was one of the swing matches on our schedule where we could get a win, and we had to make the most of it and, we did.’’
The Generals got out to a 10-2 lead in the first set leading to a Danville time out. The Vikings would close to 15-11, which forced a Decatur time out. The intensity level rose noticeably for the Vikings following the break.
“It was a psychological thing with the timeouts,’’ Houghton said. “Sometimes, you have to be more direct and take players aside and sometimes you have to be more laid back.
“I didn’t really tell them anything special but they came out of the timeouts and did a better job of taking what was available to them, especially on their passes, and that’s what made the difference.’’
The Vikings (4-7 overall, 1-2 in the Big 12) would close to 16-15 and then tied the set at 21-21. The Generals opened a 23-21 lead forcing another Danville timeout, which led to another Viking rally and a 23-23 tie. The Generals would take the last two points to win the set.
Coming in when the Generals were up 8-2, freshman Morgan King played a key role in the comeback.
“The key thing Morgan brought tonight was hustle plays,’’ Houghton said. “She was really getting to a lot of balls and made some nice one handed returns. Hustle changes momentum. She is a solid player with good mechanics.’’
King would lead the Vikings with 22 digs and five kills on 27 attempts.
The Vikings would get out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, but the Generals would rally to tie things at 7-7.
The score would be tied again at 10-10 before the Generals opened a 20-15 lead forcing another time out which again led to a Danville rally and a 21-21 tie. The final tie would be at 23-23 before the Vikings took the last two points to win the set.
“We did a lot of things better tonight including only having three missed serves after having 10 in our last home game against Oakwood,” Houghton said. “We moved freshman Shawneis Jones were she could face there best player in this set and she did a good job containing her.
“Shawneis has been playing on a sprained ankle that she tweaked again tonight but she toughed it out and played very well.’’
Jones would finish with four kills on 16 attempts.
The third set featured 10 ties with the last coming at 24-24 before the Vikings took the last two points for the win.
“We had a lot of our players moving to their second positions tonight and that played a big role in the third set,’’ Houghton said. “We moved Kaitlyn Tibben to the middle and Ashley LeLoup played a big part in the win in the third set after I had to take her out early in the first set. I tell the players to always be ready to play and tonight was a good example of that.
“We have to move players around and in and out to be successful. Whoever step-ped up in the first set might not be the player who does in the third set. We are still having some trouble with serve and receive and their side spin and jump serves also gave us some trouble but I couldn’t be more pleased with how they came back tonight. I hope this gives us some confidence in playing in close matches for the rest of the season.’’
It was a big night for digs as the Vikings had four other players in double figures.
Bethany Ziegler had 21, Hillary Parr contributed 17, Elizabeth Comrie added 13 and Katie High wound up with 10.
McKenzie Hodges led the way with 16 assists and Karyn Huff had two blocks for the Vikings, who will host the undefeated Champaign Centennial Chargers on Tuesday.
It’s not how you start — it’s how you finish.
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