Versailles used its size and strength at the net Monday to take down Russia with no doubts left.
Russia – For the fact of distance on ground…there’s only five miles between them.
But for the fact of the distance between Versailles (1-1) and Russia (1-1) in volleyball Monday night, well, there’s was a bit more than miles. Five miles, and then some.
The Tigers used their overall size, strength, and experience from juniors Kami McEldowney and Danielle Winners to overwhelm Russia at the net, winning in straight games, 25-15, 25-10, and 25-17, in non-conference play.
It marked the second time out for both teams, Russia having won last Saturday over Covington, and Versailles lost a hotly-contested match to defending Division IV state champion, Jackson Center.
“I think starting three sophomores and two juniors we’re still a little immature,” said Russia coach Aaron Watkins. “I think this is a good growing opportunity for us early in the season. We did some things well, but we have to stay more composed and take advantage of our offense a little more.
Aaron Watkins is a first-year coach, learning about his kids, and about the winning tradition of Russia. And volleyball is not the easiest of games to coordinate in order to play confidently. Two games is hardly enough to draw conclusions.
“I think it’ll take us six or eight games to really gel together,” he added. “We worked with some different lineups and it’s just in the last week or two that we’ve put things together that we’re comfortable with.”
On the other end of the floor, another young coach, Kenzie Bruggeman, left little doubt early in the match that she would take advantage of her superior size and strength at the net. The Tigers hit hard, and accurately, despite a game attempt by Russia to stay within five points in the first game.
“We played with a lot of energy and a lot cleaner than we did Saturday against Jackson Center,” said Bruggeman. “Take nothing away from Jackson Center, they’re a great team…and it was a great way for us to start. But I think their experience led them to that win. We have three girls in our rotation playing their first year of varsity and I thought we came out and played well tonight. It was nice to get the win and now we move on.
“Our size and strength was a difference. I push for them to be mentally sharp and strong and I told them if we’re in system and have a pass I want a kill. I didn’t want to give them chances. I wanted to terminate the ball and focus on the next point. I thought we did a good job of that.”
Danielle Winner and Liz Ording led the Tigers in kills, with nine and eight, respectively.
Cameo Wilson led Russia with eight kills, three digs, and a pair of aces. Whitney Pleiman had 16 digs. Jenna Cordonnier had 17 assists.
And McDowney led Versailles in serving with five aces before leaving the match in the third game after taking a teammate’s elbow to the head that left her a little shaky.
“She’ll be OK, but just to play it safe I kept her out the rest of the game,” added Bruggeman.
And to that same question posed to Watkins, Bruggeman is looking for her Tigers to come together quickly before the demands of competitive play in the MAC conference.
“I think another gauge will be this Saturday when we play in an invitational tournament at Parkway. It’ll be good to have another three games under our belt. The farther we get into the season the more consistent we get.”
Russia hosts New Bremen tomorrow in another non-league match before opening Shelby County League play Thursday at Houston.