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Hornets top Gophers in four tight games

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FROM THE MIDDLE: Rossville's Addie Cooper puts the ball over the net from the middle row during Thursday's Hornet win over Clinton Prairie on Cooper's birthday.
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TAKING THE SERVE: Clinton Prairie's Victoria Florence receives a serve during Thursday's home loss to Rossville as teammate Kylee Maish and the Gopher bench look on.
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SEE YOU UP HIGH: Rossville's Karie Taylor and Demi Freeman (3) go for the block as Clinton Prairie's Kylee Maish rises above the net during Thursday's Hornet win in four games.
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UP AGAINST IT: Clinton Prairie's Hannah Wilson makes a pass up against the net as Rossville's Karie Taylor looks on during the Hornets' four-game win at Prairie on Thursday.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Rossville won a tight four-game volleyball match over host Clinton Prairie on Thursday, winning most of the big points near the end of the last three games for the victory.

“We were really trying to work on runs,” Rossville head coach Kathy Martin said. “Prairie is a good team and they tend to play up sometimes and down sometimes and (we focused on) taking advantage of those low times. Every team has that and trying to take advantage of that.”

Prairie head coach Angie Schilling played psychologist after the match, trying to figure out the mentality of her team as well.

“When we needed to be talking to make sure that balls didn’t drop, we weren’t,” she said. “I just don’t know if it’s a confidence thing where they just don’t have confidence in themselves to do that. I would hope that they would know that I have the confidence in them to play the ball. We need to call it and be aggressive and go after it and they are being a little tentative.

“I don’t know if that’s because they are feeling some anxiety from other players around them or if it’s just internal that they don’t have that confidence.”

The win over the Gophers meant more than just a victory over a conference foe and county rival for Martin.

“Both (junior varsity coach) Lauri (Wainscott) and I are Clinton Prairie grads, so it means a lot to do this and we have sectionals here so it’s always nice to play on the floor and get part of those kinks out,” she said. “The way the floor is set up sometimes messes with setters and hitters because it’s a little bit set off, so really being able to play through that now is helpful.”

After losing 25-20 in the first game, the Hornets closed out three tight games 25-21, 25-20 and 26-24 for the win. The victory capped an already special day for senior Addie Cooper who Martin singled out for her play.

“Addie Cooper played a great game tonight,” she said. “I don’t know how many kills she had tonight but she had quite a few. She was out there and really dominating and putting the ball in play. She was hitting it through the blocks sometimes and putting it in play and today was her birthday so what a time to do it.”

Prairie jumped out to a 7-5 lead in the second game looking to extend their advantage, but Rossville’s Emma Dennison started her service off with an ace to make it 7-7 and ran off four more points for a 11-7 lead. Three services by Lacey Starkey aided by three kills by Cooper pushed the advantage to 15-9. Prairie cut an 18-12 lead to 18-16 and 20-19 but couldn’t get over the hump before falling 25-21 to even the match.

Rossville took leads of 9-3 and 12-6 in the third game before the Gophers cut the lead to 12-10 and edged ahead 17-16. The Hornets took it back on a tip kill by Marley Roberts to make it 19-18 pushing it to 22-18 with two Cooper spikes leading to the final two points before Rossville closed out the game 25-20 on a Karie Taylor kill.

Prairie held the advantage for much of the fourth game leading 11-8 before Reanna Lowery held serve three times with two kills by Demi Freeman to make it 14-12 Hornets. The Gophers retook the lead at 20-19 on three service holds by Kylee Maish but Dennison answered back with her own three service holds for a 23-20 Hornet lead. Prairie’s Victoria Florence held serve three times to get the Gophers within a point of forcing a fifth game, but the Hornets answered again with Lacie Starkey closing out the match, 26-24, with two service holds.

Prairie struggled with balls dropping in the middle of the floor on tips throughout the night.

“Our wing defense was getting back to deep,” Schilling said. “We’re still getting back behind the block and we definitely don’t practice that and they need to stay up and be ready to go. Because when they get to deep then it kind of makes the middle back uneasy and they start creeping up too and then we’ve got three people out of position.”

Along with Cooper, Martin also singled out Dawson Freeman for her play, but felt it was a team win.

“I thought Dawson did really well on the back row as our libero,” she said. “She did quite a bit back there. Overall, we just played well together as a team. We really meshed together.”

Demi Freeman led the Hornets with 20 kills with Cooper providing 17. Dennison had a team high with two aces, while Reanna Lowery had 19 digs, Dennison 16 and Demi Freeman 10.

Maish had 13 kills to lead the Gophers with Sydney Swan and Lexi Collins adding six each. Swan had team highs of two aces and four blocks (two solo), with Maish having three assisted blocks. Maish also led Prairie with 21 digs with Hannah Wilson providing 16, Hadley Wilson 15 and Swan 12.

Roberts had 41 assists for the Hornets, while Hannah Wilson had 31 for the Gophers.

Rossville improved to 10-14 (5-2 conference) with the win, while Prairie fell to 10-15 (3-3).