Cardinal Newman took sole possession of first place in SCISA Region 1-3A volleyball on Tuesday with a hard-fought 3-0 win over Hammond. Though the Cardinals (10-2, 5-0) pulled off the sweep, the outcome was by no means an easy one.
“We always seem to have this kind of match when we play Hammond,” said CN coach Bob Watson. “Defense is their thing and they really hit the floor. We hit the ball well, but they have a way of keeping the ball alive. Then, the pressure is on to not to beat yourself with unforced mistakes. It’s always nerve racking when we play.”
Cardinal Newman was clearly the superior hitting team. Veteran outside hitters Denise Jeanmougin and Erin Zander combined for 36 kills and setter Alex Watson rang up 38 assists. Jeanmougin had a match- high 20 kills.
Despite the significant edge in scoring power, all three games could easily have gone Hammond’s way.
The Cardinals were cruising in the first game, 22-16, but the Skyhawks found themselves with a 23-22 lead after a series of wayward CN hits. But a left-side kill from Jeanmougin tied the scored and Watson followed with back-to-back two aces for a 25-23 win.
In the second game, Hammond had the serve and was within 21-20, but the Skyhawks did not score again after a serve caught the net. A Zander ace, a Hammond missfire and consecutive kills by Meredith Mann and freshman middle Emily Davis closed out the 25-21 game win for the Cards. Hammond appeared on the verge of extending the match at least one more game by taking 24-21 lead in the third game on a kill by 6-5 junior middle Elaine Epting. The Skyhawks, however, could not deliver the clincher. Two kills and a block by Jeanmougin tied it up at 24-24. Hammond setter Kaki Smith caught the CN defense flatfooted with a hit that staked the Skyhawks to a 25-24 edge. Hammond still had the lead at 26-25 when Zander took charge and delivered three consecutive kills to give the Cardinals a 28-26 game win and the match.
“We’re pretty much in the same spot as we were last season,” said Watson. “We were unbeaten the first time through the region schedule and ended up tying Hammond for second place behind St. Joseph’s. We lost five-game matches to St. Joe’s and Hammond in the second half, so we know things are far from over.”
Hammond fell to 7-4 overall, 4-1 in region play.
“Cardinal Newman is a good hitting team and we worked hard on defense to prepare for this match, but we didn't do as well defensively as I hoped. And our passing was just a little off and that kept us from generating any kind of consistent attack. Hopefully, we’ll be sharper the next time we play them,” said Skyhawks coach Andy Edgren.
Hammond returns to region action on Wednesday against St, Joseph’s in a key rematch at home.
“After losing tonight we have to bounce back strong because if we don’t the whole dynamic of the season changes,” said Edgren.
Hammond finally got into the flow offensively in the third game, generating 11 kills. Smith had four kills to going along with seven assists. The Skyhawks served extremely well in the third game with Sophia Chen accounting for four of the seven aces.
Cardinal Newman had a solid game on defense, as well. Librero Nazley Wilson had 12 digs and was 17-for-22 in the serve-receive category. Watson had a fine all around match with 12 digs, two aces and two blocks to go along with her assists.