ANKENY, Iowa--The Faith Eagles opened their 2018 volleyball campaign with four games in two days during Spikefest, a tournament hosted by Faith Baptist Bible College. The young team, which has no juniors or seniors, showed some promise over the weekend, finishing with a record of 2-2.
The Eagles started on a strong note Friday night with a 3-0 victory in the opening round over Trinity Bible College, winning 25-15, 25-21, and 25-21.
Faith trailed just once in the opening two sets, getting solid attack play from the sophomore trio of Alicia Smith, Abby Booth, and Bekah Smith. Trinity kept it close in the third frame, but after a 10-10 tie, the Eagles maintained a consistent one-to-two point lead to close out the win. Alicia Smith led the attack with eight kills, followed by Abby Booth and Bekah Smith, with six each.
The middle two games were not as kind to the Eagles, who lost six straight sets to Manhattan Christian College and Cottey College on Friday night and Saturday morning. Faith stayed within striking distance in each of the three sets against Manhattan Christian, but couldn't overcome Tess Eblin's 27 aces and Greta Hinderliter's 11 kills for Manhattan Christian. On Saturday, the Eagles struggled against the tall and physical front line of Cottey College, who had 42 kills versus 13 for Faith. Cottey College won in three sets: 25-9, 25-21, and 25-8.
Following what could have been a disheartening loss to Cottey College, Coach Nihart's young Eagles squad bounced back nicely, winning the fifth-place contest against Oak Hills Christian College, 3-1. Faith won the first two sets 25-18 and 25-20, before losing set three, 26-24. The Eagles finished the tournament on a positive note, winning set four by a score of 25-18. The championship was won by Maranatha Baptist.
Overall, the Spikefest Tournament was a great way for Coach Nihart to assess his young team's strengths and weaknesses against stiff competition. It was great for his inexperienced team to bookend the tournament with wins, giving them confidence going into the regular season.
"Spikefest is really competitive, and that's good. That's what we want," said Coach Nihart. "The oldest players we have are sophomores, so we're still learning our defensive and offensive schemes. We need to get our blocking schemes down."
Coach Nihart was most encouraged by the development of his sophomore group, which accounted for 82 of the team's 102 kills during the tournament, and has stepped up to assume leadership of a team with no upperclassmen.
"They're going to have to play like seniors," Nihart said. "Alicia Smith is our captain, and she's done a great job so far, playing really high caliber volleyball. I like the patience the young team is having."
Alicia Smith led all Eagles with 26 kills during the four-game Spikefest tournament. Abby Booth had 24, and Bekah Smith added 23. Freshmen Ashley Dey and Stephanie Hemsworth had solid debuts as well. Dey finished with 18 kills and 39 digs, while Hemsworth finished with 77 assists and 30 digs. Sophomore Bethany Roberts led the way with 57 total digs.
The Eagles are back in action on Tuesday with a road contest at Union College in Nebraska.