MINONK — Home was sweet indeed Thursday evening for the Fieldcrest Knights volleyball squad.
Fieldcrest's girls showed more scrappiness on defense, more diversity in their offensive attack and just plain old more energy on their home court Thursday in a 25-14, 25-20 dismissal of the visiting Putnam County Lady Panthers.
"It was a very good win," said Lady Knights coach Jennifer Bartman. "Putnam County is a huge rival to face at the beginning of the season. We come out playing hard, they come out playing hard every time, and that's what you saw tonight."
Aside from a couple brief strong stretches for Putnam County (1-3), however, Fieldcrest (3-3) controlled the action on the floor as well as the score on the board right from the start.
The Lady Knights scored the evening's opening three points on a pair of Emma Petersen kills Oreoed around a Madi Hock ace and led until the Lady Panthers caught and passed them for a short-lived 10-8 advantage on a string of soft-hit tips and ace serves. The hosts immediately responded and retook control, with Addie Goodrich, Emma Lorton and Petersen all putting down kills off Lexi Jochums assists to carry FHS to the 25-14, opening-set victory.
On a night Putnam County did the bulk of its scoring outside of the usual bump-set-spike offense, the Lady Knights showcased their offense's many weapons. Petersen slammed down a match-best eight kills, Jacie Sullivan and Goodrich each put down five, Lorton finished with three, and leading it all setters Alaina Tjaden and setter-turned-libero-turned-setter-again Jochums finished with five and 13 respective assists.
"That's the struggle and the joy of this year," Bartman said, "trying to find how best to utilize every player and get them in the best spot possible. ... It's a joy to be able to have that and be able to do a little bit different of a lineup than people might be expecting in terms of where our hitters are coming from. ...
"And Lexi's really stepped up for us. ... She did and amazing job as libero for us last year, and this year I told her, 'Hmmm, now you've got to set, and you're going to hit a little too,' and she's stepped up a ton."
While soft hits and even softer serves allowed the Lady Panthers to stay in the opening set until the teens, it was aces — including two apiece from first Megan Wiesbrock and then Morgan Hundley — which allowed Putnam County to claw back from a 15-4 deficit in set two and make things interesting until the end, getting as close as 18-15. Fieldcrest again used its hitting to regain control, though, with Petersen, Leah White and Sullivan all notching clutch kills down the stretch to set the stage for Linnea Nordstrom's match-winner off Jochums' 13th assist of the night.
Hock, the Lady Knights libero, also had a standout performance, delivering 14 digs and three aces.
As for Putnam County — which ran a 5-1 offense instead of its normal 6-2 as the team was without one of its starting setters — junior hitters Lindsey DiazDeLeon and Skylar Grevengoed each finished with five kills.
"I just don't think we really came to play," said Putnam County coach and Fieldcrest alum Amy Bell. "We just had a rough time creating on offense, and when we got the passes our hitters weren't quite ready. And when we didn't have a good pass, it was just hard to create any offense."