The trajectory that new head coach Kayla Peterson and the North Callaway varsity volleyball team are on has been moving upward with each passing challenge.
On Thursday the squads most recent obstacle came in the form of a visit from Montgomery County for an Eastern Missouri Conference matchup that the Ladybird's lost, 25-15, 25-18, while giving their best performance of the season.
"We played really hard tonight. This is probably the best game we've played so far," said Peterson. "We were doing everything that we've worked on in practice and I'm really proud of this team. We had a few games before where we got a little frustrated. That was one of the things we talked about and something we really wanted to work on during this game. The team whole-heartedly gave 100 percent tonight and that was awesome."
In the initial set the Lady Wildcats were ahead from the start and eventually found themselves up 21-12 before dropping the next two points. Montgomery County then went on a three-point run to make it a 24-14 contest before North Callaway was able to stop that flow and put Ariana Kuschel at the serving line with match point on the line, creating a back-and-forth that ended with the Lady Wildcats winning by 10.
"We've been struggling, playing up one minute and down the next. Even though it was kind of a slow start for us, we stayed focused, played through it and ended up getting some momentum and finishing strong," said Montgomery County coach Rachel Leu. "These past few games we've stayed on the right level and are getting more and more confident. We just need to play a little more consistently than we have been."
The second set was much closer and began with Montgomery County taking a 5-2 lead before Kuschel once again stepped up to the serving line, only this time she led the Ladybird's to a 7-5 lead that Becca Bloss shortly-there-after turned into a 10-6 advantage. Once the Lady Wildcats darted back to pull within a point at 11-10, Makenna Meyer then served her squad into a 13-11 advantage that set off a series of one-point exchanges that didn't stop until Paige Oden had widened that gap to 19-15.
"We worked a lot on serving. We've been working on the jump serve and making it tough for other teams to receive. We're trying to think of serving as a chance to attack the ball, and it's starting to payoff," Leu said. "Our blocking helped us tonight. So did some really tough serves from Makenna Meyer and Paige Oden.
After a North Callaway timeout, the pinball effect stayed in play until Montgomery County pulled ahead 21-17 and then charted the next two points. It was all back-and-forth after that as the Ladybird's made it a 24-18 game that the Lady Wildcats then snatched up with solid play at the net.
"I love this program. We have 28 girls and that's great. It's nice to come into a program where so many girls are so eager to play," Peterson said. "These kids are excited to play and have great attitudes. Everbody has been great."
Statistically for Montgomery County, 3-3 overall, Meyer was at the top of the charts with six aces, Oden charted four aces and Kayla Schmidt made five kills and four blocks. Hailey Hill also had five digs.
North Callaway, 1-4 overall, is at Russellville on Monday.
"We played them to start the season and they're a pretty good team. I think we'll be evenly matched," said Peterson. "If we bring the team that we brought tonight it'll be a good match."