By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
GOWER - The East Buchanan volleyball team came from behind in the first set, survived a tight second set and pulled away in the third for a 3-0 sweep over Mid-Buchanan in Gower Thursday.
The Bulldogs (12-5-1) won their fifth straight match, taking the first set 25-21, the second 25-23 and the third 25-16.
The sweep comes after Mid-Buchanan (8-8-1) swept the Bulldogs 2-0 to open the season in the KCI tournament on August 28. The Dragons then tied a match with East Buchanan 1-1 during the Lathrop Invitational last weekend.
East Buchanan coach Ryan Horn says his team played very tense in the first two sets Thursday, but were able to relax in the third set, ultimately ending the final frame on a 9-0 run.
"I felt like we were tense all night," Horn said. "Mid-Buch is a huge rival for us. We want to beat them as bad as anybody. We kind of came out tense, we looked tense and I tried to get them to relax a little bit."
Junior hitter Maya Watkins, who's logged over 100 kills this season and more than 500 in her career, can feel things starting to come together for a team that has now won five straight matches and 15 straight sets.
"It's all just kind of starting to flow now," Watkins said. "With injuries and everything, we've just been working really hard together on and off the court and just having a lot of fun. Emma (Klein) is doing an amazing job setting. It's all kind of flowing."
Sophomore Holly Caylor, who usually plays in the middle, was moved to the outside in Thursday's match in an effort to keep Mid-Buchanan's tough defense off balance.
"We also moved Rilyn Sherwood to the middle," coach Horn said. "We also moved Maya (Watkins) to the middle and tried to keep them guessing as much as we could as to where our better hitters were."
Caylor, who led her team entering Thursday's match with 126 kills this season, noticed an uptick in energy with the team as the match against the Dragons went on.
"I think we kind of, sort of started to pick up our energy and started to play more as a team toward the end," Caylor said.
East Buchanan will stay home on Monday to face Bishop LeBlond (11-2) - a team looking for its second district title in three seasons and its eighth district crown over the last 10 years.
The Eagles were swept at St. Pius X Thursday, but Horn knows any match against Kim Huss as the opposing head coach will be a challenge.
"Over the last 7-8 years since I've been coaching at least and probably longer, they've been the best program in northwest Missouri," Horn said of LeBlond. "In order to beat them, you have to play hard and you can't play tense. You can't do what we did tonight."
Mid-Buchanan was led in Thursday's match by senior Khania Clark, who had 12 kills and seven blocks. The Dragons are home to Orrick on Monday.
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