EUREKA • The Eureka High girls volleyball team emphatically erased any previous struggles from the service line on Tuesday.
The Wildcats put down six aces and their aggressive serving created several easy points off free balls and made it difficult for visiting Northwest to get into its system during an impressive 25-21, 25-12 win.
“I think this game has been a long time coming,” said Eureka setter Andi Ahlers, who had two of the aces.
Eureka (14-5-1), No. 8 in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-school rankings, has been focusing on the service line in its last couple of practices.
“Some of our main servers have been struggling lately, especially key errors in the game at the service line,” Eureka coach Carlo Atienza said. “I’ve been pushing them hard to serve aggressively short and long and it paid off today.”
A Sydney Holt block and a kill off a free ball gave Eureka the lead for good in a dominant second set. The free ball came directly off a strong serve by Elena Becker.
Ahlers picked up a couple of aces during a 5-1 run that extended the Eureka lead to 14-7 and an Emma Lattimore ace pushed the advantage to 17-8.
“We practiced it a lot the past two days, passing and serving and our receive, so that helped us in particular,” Lattimore said.
Eureka’s serving kept No. 9 Northwest (12-3-1) from effectively running its offense and from getting prolific hitter Allison Lakin involved. Lakin, No. 2 in the area in kills averaging 6.16, had just eight kills total including three in the second set.
“I thought we were flat,” Northwest coach Debra Fortner said. “I thought we were flat yesterday in practice. I thought we didn’t play with the excitement. I thought we didn’t play with the enthusiasm that we’ve played with.”
Lattimore had a match-high 12 kills, including several from the back row.
Holt, Grace Archambault and Reagan Inglis combined for nine more kills for Eureka as Ahlers, who had 14 assists and four kills, was able to spread the ball around.
“It really gives us a lot of confidence,” Ahlers said. “I always know I have someone I can go to who can put the ball down.”
Becker’s serve sparked an 8-0 run, which proved to be the difference in the first set. Becker started the salvo with a pair of fast-paced aces. A couple of points later, Becker showed off her touch by placing an off-speed serve perfectly in the soft spot of the Lions’ defense.
“She’s one of our first servers in the game and there’s a reason for that,” Atienza said. “She’s capable of that every single game.”
The run gave Eureka a commanding 16-9 lead and enabled the Wildcats to withstand a late Northwest run that cut the lead to 24-21.
“Kudos to the girls they did fight back,” Fortner said. “They didn’t give up. We just didn’t play our game today. Our serve receive was bad. We had a game plan, but we couldn’t get to it.”
LuAnn Bonacker had five kills for Northwest. Hannah Kaletta had 13 assists.
Eureka’s defense, led by libero Sophia Chellappa, capped a well-rounded effort. Atienza said Chellappa covered more than half the court and had great support from her teammates.
The matchup, which could be a district preview, lasted just 43 minutes.
“This is a big turn for us, especially coming down the stretch of the season with about a month left ahead of districts,” Atienza said. “We’re starting to find our stride.”