CAREY - You can slam it as hard as you can, or you can gently tip it to an open spot. It all counts the same. A kill is a kill.
With Carey displaying a strong defense against Mohawk's powerful hits, and the Blue Devils up in games 2-1 over the Warriors, Mohawk turned to simply finding the open holes on the floor.
While there were still plenty of vicious spikes, the soft tips over the Carey defense may have been even more valuable in enabling Mohawk to rally for a five-game 25-10, 23-25, 24-26, 25-15, 15-9 victory.
"I always like to tell them, there's more than one way to get a kill," Mohawk coach Eric Hoover said. "You can swing hard, but if it's going right at someone it doesn't really matter if they're good enough to play it. Carey's improved their ball-handling tremendously over the past few years. Just find a hole; just put it in there softly, doesn't matter how hard it is."
"I was just seeing the middle was wide open," Mohawk senior Kasey Adelsperger said. "I was just going for that until they adjusted. I kept getting blocked so I'm like 'I gotta do something.' So I just went to the middle.
"You just have to have control as a player. Put the ball where it needs to be. Just get your team the point."
Adelsperger, along with sister Julie, rose to the occasion when Mohawk needed a spark. The Warriors took the opening game, but dropped the next two and held a slim 11-8 advantage in the fourth. Julie Adelsperger came up with a kill, then grabbed the serve and refused to let go as the lead ballooned to 20-8.
Over that stretch, Julie served two aces while Kasey had three kills and Aubrie Flood had a kill of her own as Mohawk seized control.
"We got our backs against the wall that second and third game. We just got down mentally," Kasey Adelsperger said. "I just wanted to come in there, pick it up, show the girls that we're not out of this yet. Just do my job."
In the decisive fifth game, Carey opened with the first point of a Shelby Seifert kill but Mohawk took six of the next seven points. Four of those came from Kasey Adelsperger kills with Flood adding a kill and Clara Adelsperger scoring off a block.
Mohawk raced out to a 13-5 lead before Carey fought back with three kills from Shelby Kin. But Julie Adelsperger slammed down match-point to send the Warriors home victorious.
"We found ourselves in a hole there with our back against the wall for a little while," Hoover said. "I'm proud of the way they came back. Sometimes when you lose momentum it's really hard to get it back, and it took us a while to get it back and finally we were able just to build a small lead and get some more confidence going."
It looked like it might turn into a short night as Mohawk took the first game with relative ease . After dropping the first point of the second game, Mohawk quickly jumped back in front. Carey kept clawing back, finally retaking the lead 20-19 on an Adrienne Hackworth ace. Two kills each down the stretch by Kin and Seifert helped Carey close out the game to even the match.
The third game was tied on 13 occasions. Carey grabbed a 20-15 lead, but Mohawk rallied and got the game tied at 21. It was then tied at 22, 23 and 24 before the Blue Devils finally put the game away.
Seifert had six of her team-high 12 kills in the third game.
"She's played hard all year. I know its been a short season so far, but a great preseason," Carey coach Eric Vackert said. "She's been a good leader for us. She wants that ball; she wants to put balls down. She's one of the better players in the conference, I think. She did make some big plays for us."
But, Seifert had only one kill combined in the final two games.
"We said before the match, we knew they had three really good hitters that I remembered from last year. So we can't be sending them freeball," Hoover said. "And that's what happened in the second and third game, we sent freeballs and Seifert was just killing us. We couldn't stop her in those games. We put Kasey on her in that fourth game. ... Obviously some experience in the middle. A little bigger, stronger block and it seemed to help out."
Seifert was backed up by Kin with 11 kills. Sydney Wentling set them up to the tune of 32 assists to go along with 10 digs. Logan Johnson added eight kills and 14 digs.
Kasey Adelsperger had 15 kills for Mohawk with Julie slamming 14.
Both teams now stand at 3-1 overall with Mohawk jumping out 1-0 in the Midland Athletic League. Hoover says getting the first win, especially against a team expected to challenge for the top spot, is huge.
"You got to win that first one," he said. "To win the league anymore I feel like you almost have to be undefeated. Getting that first one's important."
Vackert said he can take pride in the way they played against a two-time district champion. But that doesn't help ease the pain from a tough loss.
"My girls fight," he said. "They are hard workers, no doubt. They're in that locker room right now, they're hurt. They expected to win tonight. We talked about contending for a title and trying to win a title. We knew tonight was one of the big people you got to beat. So it stings a little bit right now.
"I felt we didn't make some plays down the stretch," he added. "Might be new for us playing one of the state's best teams over the last few years. But I'm real proud of our team though. They gave a great effort, played one of the top dogs around and showed that we got a nice team this year."