While the results on paper may tell one story, Sparks coach Tarina Elliot felt that the outcome was a reflection of her team’s execution rather than being outplayed.
“As far as their performance, we beat ourselves, bottom line. That’s it,” Elliot said. “We beat ourselves out there. We weren’t doing our passing and our setting has been struggling.”
Throughout the contest, the Lions took advantage of holes in the Sparks defense, dropping in uncontested shots. When Yerington was not exploiting the Railroaders, they were doing so themselves.
“We weren’t there mindset wise,” Elliot said. “They weren’t awake on the court. They weren’t ready for anything coming at them. We have quite a few younger players that never have been on varsity before. I have four returning players and that’s it and then the rest of the players are kind of put in a big position because they have to play all the way around and they’re not ready to pass yet, so we need to work on that.”
Things started out promising for Sparks as it took an early 4-2 edge over the Lions in the first set thanks to a pair of kills from Krystal Parker and Areli Hernandez. From there, the two teams battled to a 9-9 tie before things unraveled for the Railroaders.
Ignited by a powerful kill from Kassidy Lommori, the Lions turned the draw into a 14-10 advantage before Sparks called timeout to stop the surge. Unfortunately for the Maroon and Gold, the short break did little to slow Yerington’s momentum.
Following the brief pause, Yerington extended its lead to 21-12 on a combination of Railroader mistakes and kills from Lommori and Jazzmin Bryan. Trying to stop the bleeding, Sparks again called timeout but the damage was done as Makenzie Benner closed out Game 1 with a volley that dropped between a pair of diving Railroaders.
Much like the first game, the second set saw both sides work back-and-forth to a 6-6 tie before the Lions yet again took control.
Starting off with a Bryan kill, set up by teammate Arcelia Arellanano, Yerington strung together a 12-1 run en route to an 18-7 advantage that left no doubt as to which team had control of Game 2. Sparks handed Yerington the spurt’s final seven points with hits either into the net or out of bounds. From that point, the Lions closed out the second game for a 25-12 win.
With its back against the ropes, Sparks showed signs of life initially in Game 3, taking a 3-0 lead. Yerington quickly erased that deficit though, working its way to an 11-6 advantage. The discrepancy remained at five with the score 15-10 until Yerington separated itself for good, scoring five unanswered points. The Railroaders desperately attempted to crawl back into the contest, putting together a 5-1 run to bring the score to 21-16, but the Lions secured four of the final five points to take the match.
Parker led the Railroaders with seven kills, six digs and three blocks. She also added a pair of aces. Senior Marjorie Cabales chipped in on the night with seven assists.
Sparks plays again at home, Sept. 5 against Dayton. With the extended time off, Elliot hopes to get the Railroaders on the right track.
“We’re missing a couple of our players because they didn’t get their packets in yet, so we are missing two of our main players,” Elliot said. “We’ve been struggling with our setting because we don’t have a main setter. Our setting definitely needs improvement and our passing. I have setters this year, it’s just getting them set up has been the problem. So if I can get my setters on track, I think our whole season can be different.”