December 2, 2019... WELLAND - The Niagara Knights women's volleyball team went 1-1 in their home-and-home games this weekend against the Fanshawe Falcons and St. Clair Saints.
Saturday afternoon brought in the visiting nationally ranked Falcons (4th) who were undefeated heading into saturday's match. The red and white quieted the Knights home crowd early, taking sets one and two from the Knights (21-25, 18-25).
Niagara rallied in the third set, with veteran leader Tamara Edwards (3rd year, Vineland) coming in the game to give her team the lift they needed to take set three 25-19.
Despite the Knights best efforts in the fourth set, the Falcons prevailed, capturing the 25-22 win to go on to win 3-1.
Going up against the top OCAA West team and a nationally ranked top five team, head coach Steve Dow still saw positive signs from start to finish.
"We definitely came out flat," said Dow. "I think this is five games in a row where have dropped the first set. The positive I saw was our improvement from set to set. We were better set two than set one and better set three than set four. There was no give up in our girls. It's always tough playing one of the top teams in the league, but I would say we made them earn their third set and match win. If we side out the serving run at the end of the fourth set, we may have taken it to a fifth and in fifth sets, I will always bet on our girls. I was impressed with our third year middle Tamara Edwards who entered the game in the third set and got us 5 stuff blocks in two sets. She gave us a big spark coming off the bench."
Saturday afternoons effort seemed to have transition into Sunday afternoon's wintery matinee match against St. Clair. Niagara. The Knights came out firing taking the first two sets 25-18 and 25-22 to go up 2-0 on the Saints. Niagara looked to wrap things up in the third set, but the Saints didn't go down without a fight, coming back to win set three 25-23 to force a fourth set.
"I loved the energy we started with in the first two sets," said Dow. "We went up early and took advantage of our size and physicality at the net. We needed a bit more focus in the third to try and close out the match but winning three straight is the hardest thing to do in volleyball. Regardless we showed resiliency in winning the fourth set and the match. Our offense was on full display."
Natasha Desjardins (3rd year, Welland) had her second 17 point performance of the weekend, while Kristen Oudman (1st year, Wainfleet) rebounded from the night before putting up 14 points.
Dow is used to getting big numbers from Desjardins and Oudman, but was pleasantly surprised when another first year player stepped up her performance in her team's 3-1 win.
"The highlight for me was the performance of first year Brooke Parkes (1st year, Burlington)," said Dow. "In her first start of the year she put up 15 points, 14 kills, 1 ace and hit .419 in the match."
"I am pretty happy with the first half but the break is coming at a great time for us. We will rest up and be fully healthy for the second half push."
The Knights, now 6-3, will now take a break from varsity action until the new year, when they begin the second half of the season January 12th on the road for a rematch with St. Clair.