by Tim Miller
After a deflating loss to Malone last night that projected them as a visiting team to open the G-MAC Tournament this Tuesday, the Cedarville Lady Jackets came back with fury to beat the Walsh Cavaliers in three sets on Saturday afternoon. The 3-0 win came on Senior Day for the Lady Jackets.
Cedarville won the sets 25-20, 27-25, and 25-23 for the Lady Jackets’ fifth sweep of the season. Head coach Greg Smith commended his seniors, who although haven’t had a huge collective impact on the stat sheet, said they provide plenty of intangible support.
“The three seniors have just been awesome for us,” Smith said. “It’s been unquestionably one of the greatest senior groups I’ve had.”
Junior outside hitter Liene Miller reached her career-high in kills with 30 in the match. She did that on just 40 attempts. The Westfield, IN native also chalked up nine digs.
After the game, Miller’s teammates were elastic upon seeing Miller had reached her elusive goal of 30 kills in a match, yet Miller gave the credit to her teammates.
“I feel great,” Miller said. “But I couldn’t have done it without my team. The feedback they give me and setting me on the court, it’s all because of them.”
Junior middle hitter Lauren Willow tallied eight kills and junior setter Lindsey Bray had 23 assists filling in for junior setter Sierra Schuitema after she missed her second straight game.
Cedarville hung with the Cavaliers early, owning a 5-4 lead to start the set. However, Walsh began to pull away as Cedarville looked disorganized, and at times, uncoordinated. However, strong play by Cedarville’s two consistent star hitters throughout the season, Willow and Miller, kept the Lady Jackets close. Walsh led just 11-10 after Miller notched her fifth kill of the set.
A monstrous kill sent into the bleachers by Miller allowed Cedarville to take back the lead at 14-13, and the Yellow Jackets got back into the match through solid and nimble back row play. Cedarville continued to use steady play to maintain its lead and down 21-19, Walsh called a timeout.
Multiple timeouts by the Cavaliers would not help them, as Cedarville poured it on to win the first set 25-20, winning six of the final seven points. Miller exploded for 10 kills in the set on 16 attempts.
At the onset of the second, Walsh pulled the momentum to its side with the first set seemingly an afterthought to the Cavaliers. They scored the first two points of the set and leapt to a 7-4 advantage. Walsh continued to bully the Lady Jackets from getting close, and down 12-8, Cedarville called a timeout.
The Lady Jackets were able to get hot, winning four points in a row to take an 18-17 lead. The run forced Walsh to call a timeout as the Cavaliers found themselves on the ropes again. The Cavaliers responded with a 3-1 run of their own to take a 20-19 lead.
Cedarville came right back to score three points consecutively to take a 22-20 margin. Walsh burned another timeout in crunch time. The back-and-forth battle continued, as Walsh scored two of the next three points. Cedarville then called a timeout as the parade of timeouts carried on.
The Lady Jackets escaped the second set, winning 27-25. Miller had nine kills and three digs in the set, while Willow matched her kill total from the first set with three more in the second.
The third set was extremely close and didn’t see a margin of more than one until Cedarville took a 12-10 lead. After Cedarville extended its lead to three, Walsh came back to tie it at 16. The Lady Jackets responded with three points in a row to take a 19-16 margin, and Walsh called a timeout.
Not to be outdone of course, Walsh took three of the next four points to stay on par with the tug-of-war type match the two teams were engaged in. However, it wouldn’t be enough, as the Lady Jackets kept their lead to win the set 25-23.
“It was a great match,” Smith said. “They played hard. It was a great team effort. No matter who was brought in, everybody did a great job of taking care of their role.”
The Lady Jackets get short rest before opening the G-MAC Tournament on Tuesday at fourth-seeded Kentucky Wesleyan. Cedarville lost 3-0 to KWU on Nov. 8 in one of the Lady Jackets’ more underwhelming performances of the year. Should the fifth-seeded Lady Jackets win, they’d play the winner of No. 1 Hillsdale and No. 8 Findlay in the semifinal matchup on Friday.
Willow, who didn’t play in Cedarville’s loss to Kentucky Wesleyan, said the Lady Jackets did not show KWU the true quality of their team.
“I’m really looking forward to getting on the court and showing Kentucky Wesleyan who Cedarville volleyball really is,” Willow said. “We didn’t play our best at all that night so we’re ready to go really far.”
Tim Miller is a senior marketing major, editor-in-chief and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face, knowing too much about health insurance, and striving to perfect the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.