ST. ANNE — It all came down to size in St. Anne’s 25-16, 25-15 win at home over Tri-Point on Thursday. In more ways than one.
The most obvious way it factored into the match was the Cardinals’ significant height advantage over the visiting Chargers, which presented a significant advantage near the net, but the comparative size of the two programs’ rosters further reinforced Tri-Point’s uphill battle.
“It’s been consistent with where we’ve been recently that we do a lot of good things early on, then can’t keep the momentum going once we have it,” Tri-Point coach Jay Bennett said. “Obviously, we don’t have a very deep team. We go about eight players deep right now. We have to ride through the down parts because I can’t get a lot done with just two timeouts.”
When things were going well for the Chargers, they hung in there blow-for-blow. But with only one substitute on their bench, they seemed to really flag down the stretch in both sets. Both sets saw Tri-Point take a 9-8 lead before St. Anne collected itself and ran away with things down the stretch.
Sierra Hummel turned in an excellent performance, all things considered, but it wasn’t enough without any sort of break in the action and a lack of support from the other side of the Chargers’ offense.
“When they start actually running set plays and feel confident enough to go do them, you can tell that it’s an entirely different mentality for us on the court,” Bennett said. “Obviously we have a big hitter on the right side in Hummel, but things don’t come together for us until our other girls are feeling confident enough to run some quicks and some plays.”
Despite slow starts in each set for St. Anne, a pair of commanding finishes resulted in the final score making the win look more comfortable than it actually was.
Head coach Zach Kirkland was happy to pick up the victory, but the way in which they got there left him a little concerned, especially as the postseason approaches.
“When you’re playing a deeper team and you dig yourself a hole like that or let them hang around, it’s going to be a lot harder to keep up the fight,” he said. “We were 16 points into both games before we figured out what we were doing tonight and we can’t play like that.
“Against stronger teams, they’re going to turn it around and run away with things instead of us. It was a win, but it wasn’t pretty. We just had people not doing their jobs and too much miscommunication.”
Kirkland went on to say that the biggest point of emphasis the Cardinals can take moving forward is to get off to better starts, as evidenced to the team falling behind at the beginning of both sets Thursday.
“We have to get fast starts. If we can build a little bit more of an early lead that allows us to feel a bit more comfortable and takes some of the pressure off,” Kirkland said. When that doesn’t happen, the pressure just mounts more and more.”
Both teams will be in action again on the road at 7 p.m. Monday. The Cardinals will visit Watseka, while the Chargers will travel to Clifton to take on Central in a pair of River Valley Conference and Sangamon Valley Conference crossover matches.