Senior Night Special: Lady Tigers on target, knock off Center in straight sets
It was an efficient night Tuesday for the Nevada Lady Tiger volleyball team, making quick work of visiting Kansas City Center on Senior Night in Wynn Gymnasium.
Center played its best volleyball early, taking a 6-3 first-set lead. That, however, was the final lead Center held, as the Lady Tigers went on a lightning quick 6-0 blitz, capped by a Stacy Pennington ace. Senior Alaina Morgan extended Nevada’s lead with a kill, followed by a Lindley Ferry spike to hand the Lady Tigers a 12-7 advantage.
A Sydney Ernsbarger block at the center of the net pushed Nevada’s lead to 16-9. The Lady Tigers continued to pull away, with junior setter Hailey Jackson lofting a front row pass to Adrian Bond — as the junior outside hitter put down an emphatic kill to give Nevada a commanding 21-12 advantage.
The Lady Tigers then took four of the next five points, punctuated by a Pennington service point to close out Center for the 25-13 first set victory.
Nevada carried its momentum into the second set, with Bond’s forceful spike putting the Lady Tigers up 5-2. Nevada then grabbed an 11-4 advantage, via Lani Coonrod’s assist to Laiken Cussimanio for the left-side spike.
From there, Nevada left Center in the rearview, winning the set going away — 25-10.
The Lady Tigers are playing their best volleyball of the season, having won four games over the weekend at the Clinton Invitational, followed by Tuesday’s impressive showing.
The West Central Conference victory over Center moved the Lady Tigers to 16-13-1 overall and 4-4 in WCC-play.
After the match, Nevada head coach Ashley Thoreson said the team’s two seniors, Morgan and Halley Otter, have been integral to the Lady Tigers success this season.
Thoreson said Otter had previously been a member of the program her sophomore season, and then came back out as a senior.
“That shows a lot of dedication right there,” said Thoreson. “To come out your senior year. She had to work just a little bit harder than everybody, to kind of find her spot. She’s worked hard, had a really good attitude and always has a smile on her face. She’s been a really good leader on and off the court.”
Thoreson said Morgan has come a long ways since her freshman season, developing into a varsity starter on the front row for the Lady Tigers.
“She’s been one of our most versatile players,” noted Thoreson. “She energizes her teammates and has a lot of heart for this game. She has a loud voice that we follow, and she’s been a rock for us this year and has done a great job.”
Thoreson said she was impressed with her squad’s performance against Center.
“We had some changes to the lineup so that we could get some of the other girls in, and this was a good night to do it,” said Thoreson, as Center fell to 2-14 overall.
For Nevada, Morgan tallied three aces, while Bond put down a half-dozen kills. Meanwhile, Jackson chipped in 15 assists and eight digs.
Thoreson said one recent change to the lineup, was elevating 5-foot-10 sophomore middle blocker, Lindley Ferry, from a junior varsity role to starting varsity middle blocker.
“Lindley started out JV and she’s really been performing well,” said Thoreson. “She’s our other middle now. She’s kind of fought her way to get that middle position.”
Meanwhile, Thoreson, along with many in the Wynn Gym crowd, were left in awe of Bond’s powerful spikes.
“She has a good vertical and really quick arm speed,” said Thoreson of the 5-11 outside hitter. “She’s finally finding her rhythm; she had 63 kills at the Clinton Tournament this weekend.
“She’s our go-to hitter right now. And she’s doing a good job of making good choices with the ball. She’s finding holes when she needs to and swinging aggressive when she’s able to.”
Thoreson is hopeful the runner-up finish at the Clinton Invitational will keep her squad on the winning track.
“I’ve had to coach with a different style this year than I did last year,” said Thoreson. “With seven seniors last year, they knew what to do; they played together for many years and I was just kind of able to sit back.”
Continued Thoreson: “This year I’m leading, I’m driving the bus. And I’m really trying to find how to get some of these girls angry and push them.
“Because some of them are a little more sensitive than others; some like the aggressive coaching and some of them have a hard time handling that. So it’s been a learning year for me as well as them.”