Blue Springs South volleyball coach Dave MacLean was digging the way his Jaguars played in the first game Tuesday night against undefeated Suburban Big Six rival Liberty.
“We were diving for balls, made some great digs and played outstanding defense, which we have to do to have a chance to win,” MacLean said. “And we won that set. We didn't play with that intensity in the next two sets and you saw the end result.”
Following that white-knuckle 25-21 victory, in which the Jaguars came back from an early 9-3 deficit, the Blue Jays claimed 26-24 and 25-21 wins to improve to 10-0 overall and 2-0 in conference action. The Jaguars dropped to 5-5 and 1-2.
“This is a match we have to learn from,” said South outside hitter Halan Mann, who finished the night with seven kills and six digs. “We knew we'd have to play our best to beat a good team like Liberty, and we played really well in the first set.
“And we had times where we played well in the second and third sets, but every time the ball hits the ground, we need to learn a lesson – and I think we did tonight. We played well enough to beat some teams, but not Liberty.”
The Blue Jays rolled to a 9-3 lead in the first set before the Jaguars fought back to knot the score at 13-all.
From that moment, it was tied at every point from 13 to 20.
Mia Swanegan, who is verbally committed to TCU, gave the Jags a 23-21 lead with a block and a kill and served the final two points to clinch the dramatic victory.
The second and third games were much like the first, tight throughout, but South didn't have an answer for 6-foot-2 outside hitter Madison Duello, who finished the night with 16 kills.
“We knew Madison and Mia would be on the front row, and we did everything in our power to block Mia,” Liberty coach April Fleming said. “They won that first set, but our motto this season is never back down.
“And even after we lost, the girls refused to back down. They kept battling back, and keeping South from coming back to take a lead in the second and third sets.
“I was very impressed with South tonight, they have a nice team. We had to give it everything we had to come away with a win tonight.”
Swanegan finished with 13 kills, and Alexa Armendariz led South with 16 digs.
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC