Maryville’s volleyball team lacked the killer instinct but found enough kills, mostly from senior Meg Mersmann, to put away The King’s Academy in four sets Monday evening.
The Lady Lions made several late comebacks, including a final push going from one point down to win in the second set, but Maryville fought through many unforced errors to take the other games for a 25-21, 22-25, 25-10, 25-22 victory.
“We are struggling with that area,” Maryville coach Angel Babelay said. “There were several times we were up five or six points but let them get back in. It’s just a matter to stay focused and finish it out, but we struggled there.”
Maryville (17-6) had trouble setting to its front line early on, but TKA hit several shots out of bounds to keep game one close. Trailing 9-7, Maryville got a six-point service turn from Grace Akard, with Mersmann picking up two of her six solo blocks in the run.
The Lady Rebels pulled out 23-17, but a kill from Lilly Walker and three straight Maryville errors pulled TKA close before Mersmann finished with a kill and block.
In game two, the Lady Lions scored the final six points after trailing 22-19. Setter Valeriya Varnakova, who joined TKA at the beginning of the school year, came alive with kills and strong serves to lead the way. After the teams went back and forth through the teens, Alexa Austin served for the final five TKA points with the help of one ace and two Maryville errors.
“I say (Varnakova) came from Russia with love,” TKA coach Kelly Peterson said. “She just came in to school the first week of the season and has hardly had any practices with us, so she’ll just get better as she adjusts to the style of play here. She’s a very good volleyball player with a top spin serve you don’t see much around here, and has a great hit.”
In game three, Maryville trailed 15-13, and then Delany White had a 10-point service run. TKA finally got a side out and went on a small skein of its own behind another good series of serves from Austin. Maryville regrouped with kills from Akard and Miranda Wyatt that sandwiched two TKA errors.
Maryville led throughout the fourth game but at 22-18 slipped again. TKA came to within one point, but two bad serves and a kill by Kylie Hopkins helped the Lady Rebels to finish the match.
“We had some lapses in our setting tonight, but they worked through it,” Babelay said. “We started connecting when we needed to. TKA is a good team. They are scrappy, they’re hustlers, and they keep playing and fighting.”
“We were a little scattered tonight especially in that fourth game,” Peterson said. “We’d miss a serve or hit it in the net then they’d get it and do the same thing. We just could not get anything going where we got momentum or continuity.”
Varnakova finished with nine kills for TKA. Mersmann had 15 kills and six solo blocks. White led the Lady Rebels with 17 assists, and libero Keely Mclain had 13 digs.
Both teams return to regional play on Thursday. Maryville visits William Blount, and TKA travels to Christian Academy of Knoxville.