Winning streak snapped as Cardinals tumble at Tongie
It was inevitably bound to happen, but that still does not make it any easier.
After winning all of its matches up to the semi-finals, the Cardinal volleyball team was set to play the tournament's host team Tonganoxie on Saturday.
But after a hard-fought battle in the first tournament of the season, the Cards lost both games in the match to Tonganoxie, 25-20 and 25-22, taking third place overall.
Coach Jill Stutler said by the time the Tongie game rolled around, the Cards were not mentally in the competition. She said the Cards did not come out aggressively enough with guns blazing, which ultimately led to their defeat.
"In the Tongie match, we were outhustled, and we didn't step up when we needed to," Stutler said. "It was not a good match, and it's something that is going to haunt us for some time."
Senior Erin Kracl said the loss came as a result of poor offensive prowess and being forced to play defensively throughout the majority of the match.
"We didn't really have a strong offense," Kracl said. "Our hitters were not very established, and we had trouble getting the ball down, which is never usually a problem."
But despite the first mar on the Cards' record all season -- their record is now 18-1 -- Stutler said the team performed admirably at the tournament.
Eudora faced off against Bonner Springs, winning 25-5, and 25-11. Then they met Basehor and won the first game 25-15 and squeaked by with a win in the second game 25-22.
Stutler said the Basehor match offered the Cards some pressing competition.
"By far, Basehor was much improved since the beginning of the year," Stutler said. "They gave us a run for our money."
After Basehor fell to the Cards' might, Gardner Edgerton took to the court. After a strong Cardinal defense made several great saves, the Trailblazers also fell to Eudora 25-17, 25-13.
Then the Cards battled against Great Bend, winning both of those games 25-16 and 25-12, respectively.
Finally, before the Tonganoxie match, the Cards made quick work of Piper 25-11, 25-13.
Stutler said until the Tonganoxie match, the team exhibited superior ball control and was doing well making the other teams conform to its rhythm. She said because of those aspects, the Cards were able to dominate their competition.
"Some games we had slow starts, but we maintained our composure and we were able to balance our attacks and our blocks effectively," Stutler said.
And Stutler said throughout the day, the combined might of the three hitters -- Kracl, Nikki Snider and Haley Epperson -- was enough to comfortably get them elected to the all-tournament team.
"This is the most we've ever had on the Tongie all-tournament team," Stutler said. "The hitting of all three was just fantastic. But they had a strong supporting cast that propelled them to the all-tournament team."
Kracl was up to her old tricks again, amassing a total of 74 kills throughout the day, followed by Snider's 53.
But who stole the show, Stutler said, was Epperson. Although she had a modest amount of kills (a still-impressive 35 total), what really propelled Epperson to the forefront was her balanced play, blocking a significant amount of balls during the course of the day.
In all, regardless of the blight on their record, the team performed strongly at the tournament, Kracl said. She said the team had already picked itself up after the first loss of the season and is ready for its next tournament in Wellsville on Saturday.
"We're not down, but we aren't that happy, of course," Kracl said. "You're going to lose sometimes, and it's very rare that you go undefeated the entire season. But we're over it."