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Clinton Prairie finishes 2nd at own invite

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MAISH SPIKE: Clinton Prairie's Kylee Maish goes for a kill against Lafayette Jeff during the CP Invite on Saturday. Maish led the Gophers with 21 kills for the tournament.
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HIGH SWAN: Clinton Prairie freshman Sydney Swan goes above the net during Saturday's CP Invite. Swan led the Gophers with 21 digs during the tournament as Prairie went 2-1.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Clinton Prairie ended its own invitational volleyball tournament with a bang – or a serve dribbling over the net – as they came back from big deficits in the final two games to beat Lafayette Jeff, 20-25, 28-26, 25-23, and secure second place overall.

Seeger won both the varsity and junior varsity tournaments, with Prairie falling to the Patriots, 25-11, 25-20, in the second varsity match of the round-robin event. They topped Sheridan, 27-25, 25-15, in the first match.

The Gophers were down by five points or more late in the final two games against Jeff, but battled back in each. A little luck played into the final point as Kylee Maish hit the net on the serve and it trickled over to give Prairie the win.

“I’d like to say that (was planned), but we don’t really practice to serve to hit the net,” Prairie head coach Angie Schilling said. “I really hate those too because there’s no way to practice to defend them.”

She noted one year when she played in high school that serves could be blocked and she believes blocks should be available once a serve hits the net or that they should be played like lets in tennis, which she added was used in beach volleyball late in matches.

However, the comeback showed some mental toughness by the Gophers, which is what Schilling believes her team is missing from becoming a good team.

“We’re struggling more mentally right now,” she said. “They’ve got to decide to come together as a team and not blame each other for things because everybody makes mistakes. It happens, so they just have to learn to move on to the next point.”

Schilling wasn’t blaming a difficult recent schedule with two tournaments and three other matches in eight days.

“We have played a lot of matches, but they’ve played really well,” she said. “We had an opportunity to get some wins this past week against some big opponents, but until we can push through and lift each other up instead of tearing each other down that’s going to make all the difference.

“I really think these girls have some great skills as players and play defense really well, so they just need to play as a team.”

It’s a different challenge from last season when the Gophers fed three-time County Player of the Year Alyssa Lukasik a lot on their way to a sectional title.

“I told them at the beginning of the season that I thought they could be a better team because everybody would have to contribute,” Schilling said. “I do like that because last year we went to Alyssa a lot because why wouldn’t you. They can play better as a team physically now, we just have to mentally.”

Freshman Sydney Swan led the Gophers with 21 digs for the tournament, adding 12 kills. Maish had a team-high 21 kills, with 14 digs, an assist and three aces. Hannah Wilson had 45 assists with 16 digs, two kills and four aces.

Other contributors included Lexi Collins with eight kills and four digs, Claire Ecenbarger (18 digs, three kills, four assists and four aces), Keyra Fisher (15 digs and two aces), Victoria Florence (13 digs, two assists and a team-high five aces) and Jalynn Gleb (13 digs and eight kills).

Prairie’s record moved to 5-9 after the tournament. The junior varsity split matches with Sheridan and Seeger before losing in three games to Jeff to go to 4-6 on the season. The Gophers now get a little rest after their busy week with their next match at Frontier starting at 6 p.m. Thursday.