CARTHAGE, Mo. — The Carl Junction volleyball team handled business in a Central Ozark Conference clash on Monday night, earning a 3-0 sweep (25-14, 25-20, 25-22) over Carthage at Carthage High School.
The triumph improved the Bulldogs’ season record to 12-3 overall and 6-1 in conference play. It also marked the third consecutive win for Carl Junction and the eighth of its last nine matches.
“We have about two weeks before the start of the district tournament, and right now we’re just working on being consistent,” Carl Junction coach Cheryl Sharples said. “We talk a lot about respecting every team we play but not fearing them. I think it’s important for us to finish the regular season on a strong note and do everything we can to get better.
“Tonight, I thought we kept ourselves in system and stayed aggressive. We didn’t try to overhit the ball early because I thought our connection was struggling a little bit. But we stayed with it and got some things going.”
Carl Junction benefitted from a hot start in the first set and held leads of 11-6, 15-7 and 20-9. Its largest lead came late in the set after Kylie Scott logged a kill to give the Bulldogs a 22-10 advantage.
Carthage (14-10-1, 4-3 COC), playing without one of its starting outside hitters, eventually settled in to make its final two sets against the Bulldogs more competitive.
“We’re missing one of our starting outsides, so we already knew we had to fill that and just see who was going to work best in that position,” Carthage Bradyn Webb said. “We pulled up one of our JV kids to start off, and she did a great job, but we needed someone who could hit over the block a little bit more. So we pulled in Grace Pickering, and she did a great job. That was her first time playing outside this whole year, and I’m proud of her for stepping up.”
The Tigers jumped out to a 4-1 lead to open the second set and later held a 7-6 advantage after a CJ service error. However, the Bulldogs then went on a 5-1 run that was capped by a Carthage net violation to go up 11-8. CJ never looked back from there and led by as many as seven before claiming the five-point set victory.
“I talked to our girls in the timeouts about refocusing because I thought we kind of lost our focus at times,” Sharples said. “So we kind of got back to our bread and butter and the things that work for us. We knew that Carthage wasn’t a team that would just give up, and they showed that. But we did a good job of generating separation when we needed to in those final two games.”
A back-and-forth third set saw Carthage’s Abby Holderbaum drive a kill between two Carthage blockers at the net to pull the Tigers within 21-20 of Carl Junction late. But back-to-back CJ kills by outside hitters Salma Lewis and and Jessa Hylton pushed the lead back up to three before a service ace by Lewis eventually iced the set and the match.
Lewis finished with a team-high 12 kills for Carl Junction, while Jillian Kennedy tallied three blocks and three aces, Logan Jones 28 assists and Hylton 12 digs and nine kills.
For Carthage, Sydnee Dudolski recorded eight kills and 14 digs, while Grace Schriever chipped in five kills and Pickering two aces.
Monday marked the second consecutive conference loss for Carthage, which also suffered a 3-0 loss to Willard last Thursday.
“These teams we’ve been playing in the COC recently, they’re swinging way harder than we saw in the beginning of the season,” Webb said. “So it’s good all around for us to see that, and it will prepare us hopefully for districts.”