MOUNT VERNON — Before the Gibson Southern volleyball team took to the court Thursday night, the team had already been dealt a significant loss.
Meredith Raley, who led the team in kills and also served as the teams’ setter when in the back row, suffered an injury Wednesday during practice.
The misfortune left the Lady Titans less than 24 hours to prepare to find a replacement for the versatile and impact player.
In Thursday’s Class 3A sectional opener against Boonville, the Lady Titans were out of sync and as a result were swept out of the postseason, 25-16, 25-17, 25-17.
“The girls played hard but we were just out of sorts all night and could not get it going,” Lady Titans coach Emily Schmitt said. “We missed Meredith’s offense tonight, not being able to put balls away, having that big block on the right side and also her senior leadership.”
Sophomore junior varsity player Lexi Potts filled in for the Lady Titans injured star.
“Lexi did a great job with only having one practice with our varsity,” Schmitt stated. “But it just takes a while for a team to gel.”
The two teams battled throughout most of the first set with neither team claiming larger than a 2-point advantage halfway through.
After a kill from Hannah Martin pulled the Lady Titans even at 14, Boonville finished the set on an 11-2 run.
Gibson Southern shrugged off the way the first ended and raced out to an 11-3 lead in the second set.
A block and a stuffed from Carson Kruse with a slam from Martin sandwiched between helped the Lady Titans to the early advantage in the second.
A hitting error by Gibson Southern allowed the Lady Pioneers to begin to chip away at the deficit.
Boonville pulled even at 17 which was part of a 9-0 run to finish off the set.
Alex Holmes kept Gibson Southern close in the third set as the sophomore put away three kills in the early part.
Her third put away pulled the Lady Titans to within 12-11, but again Boonville responded with a run.
The Pioneers went on an 8-2 run for a commanding 20-13 lead and were never threatened.
“They just run such a fast offense,” Schmitt said of Boonville. “And they have a big middle who did a great job of blocking and just made it really difficult for our hitters to get around.”
But the Lady Titans most difficult challenge was getting into rhythm with their own offense.
“Our ball control was just not what it has been,” the Lady Titans coach stated. “We had to go to our outlets because our ball control was not where it needed to be to run our middles, our right and set up any special plays. We were just trying to keep the ball alive which led us to playing defense for most of the match.”
Martin led the Lady Titans attack with six kills, while Holmes (4), Kruse (3) and Megan Niehaus (3) combined for 10 put aways.
Tori Schmitt registered a team-high 10 assists, while Potts added five.
Sydney Parsons registered 11 digs, while Maci Foster added 10. Martin and Schmitt added seven digs apiece.
Gibson Southern finished the season with a 6-18 record including having won four of its last five matches.
“It was a season of learning for us with everyone in new positions,” coach Schmitt said. “We had some fantastic senior leaders who will be missed, but we will continue building towards the future.”