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ALTON – Metro East Lutheran battled with Alton Wednesday evening, but the Redbirds found a way to get past the Knights in AHS’ girls volleyball home opener at the Redbird Nest as Alton swept MEL 25-19, 27-25 to go to 1-1 on the season; the match was the Knights’ season opener.

“It turned out in our favor,” said Redbird coach Stacey Ferguson. “We worked hard, kind of battled there for a little bit and got it back together there for a little bit, so that was good. I think we got a little comfortable when we moved over to the second set and when the urgency kicked in, the girls actually picked it up.

“That was a good thing to see; I would have liked to see us play like that for the whole match, but I’m glad to see they didn’t give up and played hard for the win.”

There were several things that Ferguson saw that made her happy. “I think the defense was better tonight than I saw Monday night (in a two-game loss to Columbia on the road); they were doing a much better job of covering the court and picking the ball up and getting passes our setters could work with,” Ferguson said. “I think blocking was much better tonight; we closed blocks better and timed them much better.

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“Overall, communication on the court was better tonight. There were definitely positive things to pull from this. I think we know we have to come in and work on tomorrow and the next day at practice, but it is good to see so much good in what we’re doing.”

“We had a lot of nice things happen tonight, especially the first part of the first game,” said Knight coach Jon Giordano. “Our passing was lights-out and gave us some quality opportunities; I thought we had them there in the second game, but it’s always a close match-up with Stacey – it just went their way this time. They fought the whole way, so I couldn’t be prouder of them.

“You’ve got to start somewhere, so this is a good first step for us; I’m very happy with the effort – we’ll fine-tune the execution a little bit with some of the people we have in new spots, but otherwise, we’re pretty pleased but this is a first step.”

There were mistakes made by the Knights, but most of the errors were aggressive errors, Giordano thought. “There were a number of sins tonight, but most of the sins were sins of being bold,” Giordano said. “We’ll take that; we were too aggressive, maybe at times, but we’ll always be happy with that. There were stretches where we got tentative, but for the most part, we stayed aggressive.”

Alton took an early lead in the opener before the Knights went on a run that put them ahead 6-4; the Redbirds answered with a pair of points that drew them even at 6-6 before MEL went ahead 8-6. A six-point Alton run put the Redbirds on top 12-8, keeping Alton ahead the rest of the way despite the Knights pulling to 13-12 at one point in the game before the Redbirds took control, the lead stretched out to 19-13 at one point of the game. MEL managed to pull to within 21-18 in the late going, but Alton pulled away for the Game 1 win.

Game 2 was even the entire way, the largest lead by either team being five points by Alton at 17-12. The Knights kept scrapping and managed to draw even at 18-18 and 19-19 before Metro forged 22-20 and 24-22 leads in the late going before Alton pulled even to 24-24. The teams split points to make it 25-25 before Alton got the final two points of the game to get the sweep.

Olivia Ducey had four kills for the Redbirds for the match, with Brooke Wolff and Shiann Johnson each having three blocks, Grace Kane 23 digs and Leilani Hill six digs, three kills and a block on the evening. The Knights were led by five points on serve from Caitlin Reynolds, four points from Anne Kienle, five kills from Kate Weber, four kills from Alaina Bozarth, 16 assists and two kills from Sidney Vetter and 12 digs from Chloe Langendorf.

The Knights head to Springfield Lutheran for a weekend tournament Friday and Saturday; the field has teams such as Springfield Lutheran, Springfield High and Lutheran St. Charles (Mo.) and LaSalle-Peru; the Redbirds are off until Sept. 5, when they travel to Chatham Glenwood.

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