Led by senior Ka’asha Jefferies’ outstanding play at the net, Garner used improved hitting and a strong overall game to sweep past Cleveland and its tough defense in a nonconference volleyball match Wednesday night.
The Trojans (5-1) won 25-19, 25-19, 25-20 a match that featured three hard-fought games. Cleveland (1-4), a 3A team playing a 4A opponent for the second straight night, was even in each set until around the halfway point before Garner put together decisive runs.
Jefferies was a force at the net, using her leaping ability to either get off a sizzling kill or tipping the ball into an open area near the net. She finished with a game-high 15 kills. Brooke Kamphuis added 13 kills for the Trojans, which got kills from six players.
In the third set, Jefferies tipped a winner at the net to tie the score at 13 and then got another kill one point later to put the Trojans up 15-13. Then with the Trojans up 23-19, she had the hit of the match, a smash from the left side of the net that landed just inside the back right corner on the Rams’ side.
“That’s about as good as you can do,” Garner coach Jason Boyette said of the highlight-reel shot. “You can’t really play defense on that because she put it exactly where she wanted to. If we can get her swinging like that more consistently, it’s going to be fun to watch.”
The Trojans eliminated some unforced errors against Cleveland, Boyette said.
“We hit the ball much better than we have the last couple of games and served the ball better,” Boyette said. “That always helps. We didn’t give them a lot of free points like we have (our opponents) the last few games.
“We hit the ball good and hit it in. It was much better hitting all around and got some timely blocks.”
Stephanie Sierra had three blocks and Nyah Miller-Hines had two.
Courtney Weathersbee continued to be the catalyst for the offense. The senior had four service aces, 32 assists and four kills.
Cleveland, the runner-up in its conference a year ago, played tenacious defense. The Rams made the Trojans work hard for their points, but in the end came up short against the more-experienced team from Garner.
“I knew they would play great defense,” Boyette said, “and their libero (Krista Haschke) made an amazing play in the third game. I wish I could have called a timeout and given her a high-five because it was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen. But we won that point and that kind of broke their back after they made that great play and we still won that point.”
Cleveland’s early-season schedule, which has featured three of its first four games against 4A schools, was designed to toughen the Rams up for conference play.
“We’re coming along,” Cleveland coach Megan Morris said. “We’re not used to playing 4A schools and the competition is a step up. We are going to keep coming back and keep playing hard and get ready for our conference.
“That’s why we are scheduling them is to see other competition. Tonight, we just got stuck around 15 points (in each game).”
Jefferies, who leads the Trojans with 63 kills, said she has been working hard to improve her accuracy on her kill shots.
“I’m working on timing and that goes hand-in-hand with accuracy,” Jefferies said. “I’m also taking a look at the court before I take a (big swing) at it. If I see it, I try to give them a challenge, tip it short, tip it deep, hit it hard, cut it.”
The senior credited her team’s run in each game to confidence.
“Court awareness is a big thing,” Jefferies said. “Court presence is a big thing. If you have confidence, you are going to play with confidence. You are going to play better and it will be reflected on the scoreboard.”
In the first set, Garner was clinging to a 18-16 lead when Kamphuis’ kill made it 19-16. Miller-Hines had a critical block and Kamphuis closed out the game with a kill as the Trojans went on a 5-1 run to end it.
The second set was tied at 11 when the Trojans went on a 7-0 run to take charge. Jefferies had a pair of kills and a service ace during the run.
“It was an all-around good match,” Boyette said. “I was pleased.”