Peavler steps in, does job for MOC volleyball
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 16, 2005 2:11 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- A somber, surreal mood overshadowed Tuesday afternoon's volleyball practice when senior setter Sara Christie, a two-time all-conference selection, sustained a critical knee injury.
Players toiled through practice and kept that dazed feeling all day Wednesday -- a mere 24 hours before their home opener against St. Andrews at Kornegay Arena.
"Our hearts just broken over this," said Trojan senior Heidi Busch. "It's devastating to have your senior setter go down. We're all like 'oh my gosh, now what do we do?'
"We're in the stage where we need to pull together, work harder. We haven't quite realized what it's going to take to overcome this."
The Trojans took the first step Thursday evening. Freshman Mallory Peavler, recruited as a defensive specialist, made the most of her first-ever collegiate start at setter. The Illinois native provided 34 assists in a 30-19, 30-20, 30-25 victory.
"A freshman should never be put in this situation, but for what the circumstances were, Mallory did awesome," said Busch.
Christie aggravated her left knee, the same knee in which she tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) as a sophomore. The all-time assists leader in Mount Olive history, Christie played the entire year with a brace and had surgery in the offseason.
An Illinois native, Christie hoped to see an orthopedist today to determine if surgery is needed. Her status remains day-to-day and her absence prompted a change in the Trojans' complex offense. Second-year head coach Sasha Gutor reverted to a simpler scheme to give a nervous Peavler confidence in the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference match.
"For her first time as a setter, she did very well," said Gutor. "We still have a lot of work to do and will take it step by step. We had to make some adjustments and thought it was important to get off to a good start."
Peavler fed assists to either Busch, Sam Mitchell, freshman Kari Ham or Colby Mangum. Mangum normally plays middle hitter along with junior Anna Luft, but moved to the outside on occasion. The quintet combined for 41 kills against the Knights, who experienced trouble closing down blocks all evening.
"Once Sara went down, I knew all the pressure was going to be on me," said Peavler. "But, I didn't want to let my team down. I don't know if I stepped it up tonight, but I tried really hard.
"They really stepped up, had positive attitudes and helped me out."
St. Andrews, an NCAA Tournament participant last season, held early leads in each set. The Trojans (4-2, 2-0 CVAC) struggled to find an offensive rhythm, but once Peavler gained some trust, they savored moments of brilliant play.
Busch, Mitchell and Luft combined for 11 kills in the opening set. Luft, the 2003 CVAC rookie of the year, successfully converted her first eight attempts until a mishit midway through the second set.
Mangum delivered an off-speed hit off Peavler's assist and served an ace to close out the first set 30-19.
The Knights built a 7-2 lead in the second set and the Trojans missed three consecutive opportunities to force a tie. Luft blocked Jessica Bewley in the middle to break a 14-14 tie and followed up with a kill to give Mount Olive a 16-14 lead.
With momentum on the Trojans' side, Mangum blocked Lauren McManus and then put away a short ball to make it 23-17. St. Andrews never recovered. Peavler finished off the Knights with three aces in a set-clinching 6-0 run.
The sluggishness continued in the third set and once again the Trojans forced a tie at 14-14 -- this time when Mangum delivered a kill. After the Knights committed a hitting error, libero Nikki Murphy kept a point alive with a great dig in the backcourt.
Peavler set to Mitchell, who pounded a ball toward the Knights' Dani Grahmm at midcourt. The ball landed at Grahmm's feet as she just missed making the pancake dig.
The point helped start a 9-2 run as Mount Olive earned league win No. 48 in its last 56 regular-season outings.
"We always start off slow and then realize we have to play," said Busch, who is closing in on 5,000 kills for her career. "Mallory hasn't had any real setting experience and she got the nerves out after awhile.
"You could definitely tell she started to get a little more comfortable. She did well."
Thursday's match began a stretch of six home contests in 10 days. The Trojans entertain CVAC newcomer Converse (S.C.) College at 1 p.m. Saturday and welcome Limestone (S.C.) College at 2 p.m.
Archrival Barton College pays a visit next Tuesday in a rematch of last year's CVAC Tournament quarterfinal match won by the Bulldogs.
The Trojans entertain Queens University a week from today and conclude the homestand Sept. 24 against Anderson (S.C.) College.
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