Fort Calhoun's varsity volleyball team completed a 3-0, season-opening sweep Thursday at Arlington High School.
The Pioneers won at all three levels — reserve, junior varsity and varsity — but needed four sets to claim the main event match after the Eagles' hot start to the 2020 campaign. Coach Katarina Nelson's lineup won the first set 25-22, but coach James Slie's won the next three, 25-16, 25-17 and 25-18.
“It was good volleyball,” the FCHS coach said.
“It was a fun match,” Arlington's added.
After a 7-all start, the Eagles took control of the opening set with the play of Kailynn Gubbels and Chase Andersen — who finished with 19 kills, 10 digs and two aces. Gubbels earned kills at the net and from the back row, while Andersen picked up an early ace and a late kill of her own.
“I would say our middles were our workhorses in that match,” Nelson said. “(Kailynn and Chase) played amazing, from passing to hitting to blocking. They were both on fire.”
Down 1-0, the Pioneers certainly took notice.
“(Gubbels) shocked us at first,” Slie said. “She's a great athlete.”
He credited his senior libero, McKenna Greenwell, for slowing down the Eagle junior as the night went on.
“McKenna was all over it after game one,” Slie said. “She read No. 4, and was very consistent.”
The libero, meanwhile, noted the overall team effort.
“We had to adjust, but we also really had to be hyped and bring the energy up,” Greenwell said. “Everyone was starting to get down on themselves and that's just unacceptable.”
The senior did her part to change the mindset.
“What I tried to do was just bring everyone up and bring everyone together,” she said.
Greenwell did that, in part, with her serve. She notched an ace for the first point of the second set, kicking off a 6-0 run.
“I just reset my mind,” Greenwell said. “I took deep breaths and thought about nothing but getting the ball over the net.”
Fort Calhoun's Molly Bales added her own seven-point serving run during the third set before Rianna Wells notched a streak of her own near the end of the match-deciding fourth.
“We worked a lot on consistency and serving more aggressively in practice,” Slie said. “We need to be able to be aggressive and be consistent at the same time, and it proved it tonight.”
In addition, the Pioneers' Alivia Cullen, Ellie Lienemann, Kaitlin Smith and Grace Genoways — who notched the final point through an Arlington block — brought their bench to its feet with fourth-set kills.
Slie was pleased with his team's effort as he walked off the floor, while Nelson said she'd hoped for her Eagles to carry more of its first-set energy on.
“If we would have kept our momentum and energy, and adrenaline, up from that first set, it would have been a completely different game,” the AHS coach said. “I think, like a lot of teams, we kind of let our guard down a little bit. You've got to keep the energy up.”
Ultimately, though, Nelson said she was pleased with her middles — as well as freshmen Brooke Hilgenkamp and Taylor Arp — and looking forward to Saturday's matches at a Plattsmouth tournament.
Arlington goes 1-2 at tournament
Originally scheduled for Plattsmouth, Saturday's matches were moved to Nebraska City due to disabled fire alarms at the Blue Devils' school.
Arlington had to travel further, but played competitively according to its coach, Nelson. The Eagles went 1-2, earning their first win of the season against Ralston, 27-25, 25-27 and 25-22.
Nelson said AHS played with energy, served the ball well and avoided slumps.
In 2-0 losses to both Plattsmouth and Platteview, the Eagles pushed their opponents to defeat them.