October 4th, 2018

Assumption beats Mercy in five-set thriller

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

Assumption beats Mercy in five-set thriller
Assumption's Camille Nazor talks with legendary head coach Ron Kordes / photo by Paul Najjar

When you’re 35 games into an undefeated season, you’ve got a big target on your back.

When you’re ranked No. 1 in the state AND the nation, you’ve got a huge target on your back.

The No. 1-ranked Assumption Rockets, the nation’s best team from the outset of the season, had all of that to deal with in addition to a tough, scrappy, determined bunch of Mercy Jaguars Thursday night.

And though the No. 2-ranked host Jaguars got 29 kills from senior Jayme Scott and 17 from senior Emma Schurfranz, the Rockets dug out of an 8-4 deficit in the fifth set to win their 35th straight match 16-25, 25-19, 25-18, 18-25, 15-13.

Flawed as it was, this match was far and away the best of the year in the state.

“We knew we were going to have a match on our hands coming in here,” Assumption head coach Ron Kordes said. “At their place and they were gunning for us and I thought Mercy played really well. Obviously we weren’t as consistent in some things, but the biggest thing was when it didn’t look too good in set five we really hung in, dug in and found a way to win.”

Down 8-5 in the fifth set, Assumption’s lefty-swinging senior opposite hitter Callie Martin (Wright State commit) went back to serve and cracked back-to-back-to-back aces. The unheralded senior could not have picked a more prescient time to deliver that trio of points.

“I was just thinking about being really consistent with my serve and needing to put pressure on them (with it),” Martin said. “I was trying to make them (the serves) drop and they did, except for the one that clipped the net, I didn’t mean for that to happen but it worked out.”

Finding hitters to consistently support the terrific junior tandem of Rader (Ohio State commit) and outside hitter Anna DeBeer (Louisville commit) has been a challenge for the Rockets. Tonight was Martin’s chance to make some plays and she gave the team 7 kills, 2 blocks and those three enormous aces.

“This definitely helped my confidence,” Martin acknowledged, “And helped prove to me and my teammates that I can do the job when my team needs me.”

The Rockets senior setter Camille Nazor, a Duke commit, distributed 39 assists and found a reliable option in Martin in this tense battle.

“(I) Just had to stay patient and stay confident with my hitters tonight,” Nazor said. “We know how to play from behind because we do that all the time in practice. Callie was great tonight and she came out of nowhere to make those plays. Coach Kordes said that her presence sometimes goes unnoticed, but she’s a key player for us and did a great job against a very good team tonight.

“Jayme (Scott) was on fire tonight and all we could do is try to get a touch on it on the block because she was in a zone,” Nazor continued. “It’s important to experience a game like this at this time of year because the postseason is upon us and everyone will be up for playing us.”

Assumption, now 35-0, has played one of the most challenging schedules in the nation and has lost only seven sets; four of them to this gritty Mercy team.

“The first time we played (Sep. 4) their middles really did a great job in the first two sets,” Mercy head coach Matt Thomerson said. “They didn’t get the ball as often tonight and we really worked hard to defend them. Our assistant coaches watched a lot of game film and we came up with a good game plan. Bottom line is the players have to put it into action and they did that for the most part tonight.”

Thomerson’s team was solid throughout and though they were behind 4-1 in the first set, they steadied their nerves and dominated the Rockets in the opening frame 25-16. Scott and Schurfranz registered 5 kills apiece and set the tone for the Jaguars (27-6).

“We played some really good defense tonight,” Thomerson said. “That was a strong team effort, but we were up 8-4 in the fifth and maybe lost our composure a bit. It was great to battle them to the very end.”

The defensive compliment was a nod specifically to his sparkling sophomore libero Eleanor Beavin, who finished with a match-high 30 digs and was seemingly everywhere her team needed her to be.

“We try to be disciplined as a defensive unit and make adjustments when we see something new,” Beavin said. “We feel like we can dig anyone on their team on any given day. Our blocking was great tonight. We were able to get a lot of touches and slowed their momentum. They were out of system a lot and weren’t able to run Rylee (Rader) and Emma (Monks) out of the middle so much. And we knew if we could cut down on their middle attack that that would make our jobs handling their pin hitters a bit easier.”

The Jaguars silenced DeBeer completely in the first set, but the high-leaping hitter managed to lead the Rockets with 16 kills. And, with the score tied at 10-10 in the fifth set, she put her hang-time hops on full display as she elevated to get a touch/tip-back on a potential Schurfranz kill for a big momentum shift. Rader added 13 kills and four blocks.

But the story of this match was the Scott-Schurfranz hitting combo and sophomore setter Elena Scott, who notched 44 assists and played an all-around outstanding game.

Scott tallied those 29 kills on 69 attempts with just 8 errors, a .304 percentage. And she delivered them from every spot imaginable including several from the back row. Schurfranz was 17 of 57 with 7 errors, but added three blocks to her stat line as well.

“It was fun to play them and play so well as a team,” Scott said. “We know they’re tall and we know we have to hit off their hands. But, our defense was amazing tonight. We knew we had to slow down Anna and Rylee and get them out of system as much as possible in order to have a chance.

“In that fifth set when we were up 8-4 I looked at Emma and said, ‘Stay cool, calm, collected… and she said, ‘And composed,’” Scott continued. “It was important to experience a game like this for all of us.”

Said Schurfranz: “It was fun out there in the fifth and being up 8-4 was good for us. But we let up a bit and they got back in the match. We need to work on pushing through and be determined to more pressure on them in those critical moments.”

Games like this bring out the best in these teams. Rest assured that they’ll both be working towards meeting again in the state tournament later this month.

And that that target on Assumption’s collective backs will get bigger and bigger with each set they play.


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