by Matt Delaney
Injuries riddled the starting lineup as a hobbled Mustang volleyball team capably swept the season series with William Monroe, triumphing in straight sets (25-19, 25-23, 25-12).
Usual starters junior outside hitter Shaun Rodock and sophomore middle hitter Merriweather Gordon and sophomore setter Isabella Ashton missed the match while tending to differing ailments, placing the onus on Mason’s reserves to play a larger role.
“We actually had this happen [at] Warren [County] so there was a bit of experience in the rotation,” assistant coach Brad Young said. “Because people were out of positions they’re normally used to…we didn’t try to do anything too fancy, we wanted to stick to the basics of volleyball.”
Simplifying the game plan alleviated pressure off of the bench players, but inadvertently affected the rhythm found among the remaining starters. Miscues replaced a commonly well-orchestrated offense built on strong outside hitting.
For example, a nail-biter in the second set was almost lost due to poor communication and lack of assertion, but saved by junior middle hitter Kate Karstens’ kill and an ace by senior libero Mary Catherine Donovan to take the set 25-23.
The first set was won by senior outside hitter Vicky-Marie Addo-Ashong and freshman outside hitter McKenzie Brady’s kills, while getting solid help from Karstens and freshman setter Evelyn Duross. The third set saw a deflated William Monroe squad sent home by way of Addo-Ashong’s crafty kills and frequent blunders on their own part.
Even with erratic play, the basic formula propelled the Mustangs to victory. Addo-Ashong, Karstens, Brady and Duross shouldered a heavier load and allowed the team’s back-ups – freshman outside hitter Shea Ruyak, sophomores setter Jaden White and middle hitter Laura Whitaker and junior Andrea Dilao – to thrive in reduced roles.
“We did really well,” Addo-Ashong said. “Laura stepped up [and] closed her blocks. Shea hit well [and] Andrea had some really great ups.” Karstens added that losing starters helps build chemistry by forcing people to play together who don’t normally have to, giving the team an added dimension of depth.
Mason received ancillary support from a surprisingly adept service game on the night. The team racked up 16 total aces as Brady and Karstens had four, Durross with three, Donovan and Addo-Ashong each with two and one from Ruyak off the bench.
To a team that, at full strength, establishes their game with solid defensive, precise sets and swift kills, straying away from the norm would typically present itself as a weakness. However, it fit right into the team’s strategy. “[The] point of emphasis was ‘Just get our serves in,’” Young remarked. “We tried to focus on making their team [be] the ones who have to make plays [while] we focused on clean volleyball and playing defense off of it.”
Young noted that in the previous match against William Monroe the Mustangs were responsible for 89 errors, 15-20 of which came from serves, and caused the match to go the distance before Mason drew a 3-2 result. In the rematch, curbing the problems behind the serve line made for an easier outcome on the coaching staff and the players.
With William Monroe behind them, Mason is now on a three match win-streak after topping Warren County on October 8 and sweeping the season series against Clarke County on October 6, both with scores of 3-2.
The Mustangs hit the road once again as they look to win another season series, this time against Central High School tomorrow night.