Vanguard beats Rattlers in three straight sets

Vanguard’s Ruby Owen (34) at the net against Belleview’s Kahleah Lancaster (7) and Hope Willis (8), Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at Belleview High School in Belleview, Florida. The Knights beat the Rattlers in straight sets 25-19, 23, and 14. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent] 2021

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Posted September 29, 2021 | By Kassidy Hill, Special to the Ocala Gazette

Vanguard’s Ruby Owen (34) at the net against Belleview’s Kahleah Lancaster (7) and Hope Willis (8) on Tuesday at Belleview High School [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent]

It was an all Marion County face-off on Sept 21, as the Belleview Rattlers girls volleyball team (8-6, 2-1) fell to the Vanguard Knights (6-10, 1-0) in three straight sets. It was the first district game win overall for Vanguard and the first district loss for Belleview.

The first set was a back-and-forth affair. A few self-inflicted mistakes on both sides, complemented by fiery offense, kept the set close. At the midway point, the score was even at 14-all.

Then Knights star Emma Ehmann increased the lead to 16-14 with a strike from the back row, and from there, Vanguard went out to a 17-14 lead. But the home team Rattlers tied it back up at 18. But a 7-1 run by Vanguard helped them take the first set.

Vanguard took the lead in the second set, thanks largely to Ruby Owen’s flaming kills. Twice Belleview looked to strike back early, and twice Owen delivered a strike of her own to keep her Knights ahead by two. Belleview’s Hope Willis answered, though, keeping her team in the set at 10-all.

The Knights increased their lead by as much as eight, but just as it looked like they would run away with it, the Rattlers patiently clawed their way back. Belleview’s Kahleah Lancaster sent a tip over the net to cut the deficit to three, and the Rattlers could taste a comeback. After three out balls tied it back at 22, Vanguard took a timeout. After the timeout, Ehmann delivered a blazing strike to make it 25-23, and the Knights took set two.

Belleview’s Lancaster kept things from getting out of hand too early in the third set, cutting into Vanguard’s lead and making it 10-6. The Knights extended the lead to 14-7 before the Rattlers mounted a small comeback, but Vanguard was just too strong. A strong stretch from Vanguard’s Taylor Cady helped them take the final set 25-14.

“I think it’s the first time that we’ve really been tested in a couple of weeks, and you know we didn’t rise to the challenge,” said Rattlers head coach Lindsay Seek. “But we’ll get better…We’re learning to mesh with each other because there are, a lot of them are new. We don’t have a lot of returning players. It’s like a whole new team.”

The Knights are also dealing with changes as Madison Jacobs, who stepped in at setter, found a dose of desperately needed confidence.

“We’re facing a new challenge, girls playing the rotation that they’re not used to, and they’re doing an amazing job,” said Vanguard head coach Luis Perez. “It tells you where we are as a team and what’s gonna happen later on. We have a hard schedule, and that’s gonna just get us better to get for the State series. So, we’re just getting there, step by step, one day at a time, one set at a time, one point at a time.”

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