Lady Eagles fall short but take big step forward

Published 10:57 am Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It is probably impossible to get an exact measurement of the improvement the W.S. Neal Lady Blue Eagles volleyball team made from their opening match.
Day and night might be the best description even though the Lady Blue Eagles came up on the short end of a 27-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-23 score against the host Jay, Fla. Lady Royals Monday.
The Lady Blue Eagles (0-2) had their chances to win both the first and fourth sets in addition to their second set win.
The opening set featured 14 ties and the biggest lead either team had was only three points.
W.S. Neal took its biggest edge when a service point by Katelin Hulley put the Lady Blue Eagles up 8-5. W.S. Neal matched that edge moments later when a defensive hit by Jamica Thomas made it 9-6.
Jay (3-3) snapped a 23-23 deadlock when a defensive hit gave the Lady Royals a 24-23 lead, but Jay missed a chance to close out the set when a missed serve pulled W.S. Neal even.
The Lady Blue Eagles missed their chance to win the set moments later when a tipped ball by Maggie Crutchfield on a serve by Molly Carlson gave the Lady Blue Eagles a 25-24 lead.
An illegal hit, a net violation and an ace by Jay's Jessica Johnson brought the Lady Royals back for the win.
W.S. Neal grabbed an early lead in set two and never relinquished it.
Erica Cardwell and Maggie Crutchfield sparked the Lady Blue Eagles to the victory. Cardwell had five service points with an ace. Four of those points came in succession that swelled W.S. Neal's lead to 18-11. Crutchfield had six points, three aces and a defensive kill. The last of Crutchfield's points gave the Lady Blue Eagles a 23-16 lead that all but ensured the set win.
Jay had a narrow 9-8 lead in set three when the Lady Royals kicked things into high gear.
A defensive point and a five-point string by Karen Brake swelled the gap to 15-9. Later in the set a four-point run by Johnson after a defensive point put Jay in firm control with a 20-11 led.
W.S. Neal appeared it would force a decisive fifth set, as it led nearly the entire fourth set. With the score deadlocked at 7-7, a missed serve by the Lady Royals and five service points by Jessica Fountain put the Lady Blue Eagles up 13-8.
The advantage reached as high as six points, 17-11, before four straight aces by Johnson started to shift the momentum towards the home team.
An ace by Crutchfield still had W.S. Neal out in front 21-18, but a defensive point and four points with an ace by Brittany Renfroe put Jay up 23-21. It was a lead the Lady Royals did not relinquish.
W.S. Neal's junior varsity also showed considerable improvement from its first match, but like the varsity came up on the short end of a 25-19, 25-15 decision.
W.S. Neal, which played at Monroe County Tuesday, makes its home debut Thursday when it hosts Central of Allentown, Fla. Play starts with the junior varsity match at 4 p.m.