High School Sports

Lancers squeak out a tough win against rival Maroons

East beats West in boys volleyball rivalry game

Belleville East's RJ White talks about the Lancers' victory over Belleville West.
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Belleville East's RJ White talks about the Lancers' victory over Belleville West.

It cannot get much closer than the 25-23, 25-23 victory the Belleville East Lancers posted over the Belleville West Maroons in boys volleyball Tuesday night.

Both games were tied at 23 before the Lancers managed to tally the next two points to squeak out the victory.

With the win, East completed a season sweep of their city rival. The Lancers defeated the Maroons 25-20, 25-20 at home on April 6.

“I expected nothing less out of an East-West game,” said Lancers coach Joe Nesbit. “They came out charged up in their home gym. It seemed to be a match of nothing but waves of emotion, with a very fine line between working hard and catching a couple of breaks here and there.

“It just so happened it was our turn at the end of both sets tonight.”

East improved to 9-6-2 and 6-3 in the Southwestern Conference with the victory. The Maroons dipped to 12-13-1 and 5-4.

“That was exciting,” said West coach Austin Betz. “We put in a new lineup yesterday in practice and had to run with it, and I thought we did an outstanding job.

“We played some scrappy volleyball. It could have gone either way.”

East senior RJ White was glad to see his team dig deep at the end of each game.

“We just stepped up to answer some big calls when we needed to,” said White, an outside hitter for the Lancers. “Coach gave us a plan to follow there the last few points and we executed.”

Key sequences

In the first game, a long hit out by the Lancers had enabled West to tie it at 23.

But a hitting error by West put the Lancers back in front. Senior standout Andrew O’Bryan then got down a hard kill to give East the victory.

A six-point serving run by the Maroons’ Sharron Clay had enabled West to build a 16-9 lead in game one. But the Lancers quickly answered with a seven-point run behind the service of Rico Walker to tie it.

Twice in the second game West owned a three-point lead, the final time at 15-12. East later had a three-point lead of its own at 22-19, but like the first game it found itself tied at 23.

An out-of-bounds serve gave East its 24th point. Braden Shelley then provided the match-winner when he tallied the lone service ace of the night.

“He picked a great time to do it,” said Nesbit of Shelley’s winning point. “But what I am really glad with is the way we kept bouncing back.

“It was not so much about the technical aspects of our game, but our mental approach when it got tight. If they could be like that from the first point to the last, their coach would sleep a lot better at night.”

O’Bryan topped a balanced Lancers net attack with four kills. Clay and Trevor Pentland had six apiece to pace West.