A Hannibal spike

Hannibal's Hannah Longley follows through on a spike during Thursday's varsity volleyball match against APW.

HANNIBAL — The Hannibal varsity girls volleyball team is still searching for its first win of the season after falling to visiting Altmar-Parish-Williamstown 3-1 Thursday night.

The Warriors dropped the first two games 25-20 and 25-20 before taking the third game 25-19.

The Rebels closed out the match by winning the fourth game, 25-18.

Hannibal Coach Kat Oaks said she has consistently seen improvement in the team’s performance in the early stages of the season, despite the four losses. She said the Warriors are having a hard time “finishing the ball.”

Oaks added that communication has been a focus for the team in recent practices, but said the Warriors showed improvement in that area against APW despite a few mistakes.

“They’re taking what we do in practice, they’re learning and they’re making adjustments, so of course I’m proud of that,” Oaks said. “There were a few sneaky volleyballs that got by us (tonight) that landed on the line or were close, so we just have to keep making sure the girls know where they are and where the ball is going.”

APW got off to a fast start in the first game, taking five straight points before Hannibal finally hit the scoreboard. The Warriors went neck-and-neck with the Rebels, staying within three points most of the game. APW went on a three-point run at the end, capped by an ace for the 25-20 victory.

In the second game, the teams battled back-and-forth until the Rebels went on a six-point streak for a 20-12 cushion. While the Warriors answered a couple of times with service aces by Alyssa Gage, APW took the game, 25-20.

Hannibal raced to a 10-3 lead in game three behind strong play from Sandy Allen up front with blocking and spiking. Hannah Longley chipped in some strong serves and spikes as well.

Oaks mentioned that she moved Allen to the middle of the front row after watching her confidence during practice. She also highlighted Longley as the team’s “secret weapon.” The junior moved up to the varsity as a sophomore last season and has continued to shine.

“Hannah’s gotten very consistent over the last two years, and that’s definitely helped our team get some points. … She’s gotten a lot more comfortable on the court,” Oaks said. “I think Sandy’s position change is going to be a permanent spot for her with how she performed tonight.”

Hannibal eventually pulled away, helped by two more aces from Gage, who finished the game with six straight service points. The Warriors won 25-19 to get back into the match.

In between the third and fourth games, Oaks said she told the team that they just had to remember why they were there: for the love of volleyball.

“Sometimes, I have to remind them that they’re here for a reason. They love the game of volleyball and they’re here to play volleyball. Sometimes it’s as simple as that,” Oaks said. “I can coach them and tell them all of the most inspirational things in the world, but it comes down to their love for the sport.”

APW went on a five-point run early in the fourth game, and it proved to be too much for Hannibal to recover from. The Warriors got to within three at one stage, but every time they got the ball back, it seemed to immediately go right back to the Rebels, who marched toward a match-clinching 25-18 win.

Longley finished the match with eight kills, five digs, four aces, and a block. Allen chipped in five kills, two digs, and an ace. Gage tacked on four aces, seven digs, and a kill. Kiley Emmons led the team with nine assists while adding a dig.

Hannibal (0-4) has matches scheduled on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The Warriors’ first match of the week is against Mexico (1-3), which lost to Jordan-Elbridge on Thursday.

Without much practice time, Oaks said there will mainly be some fine-tuning in preparation for all four matches this coming week.

“It’s just going to be tweaking some things at the net. We did a great job digging and being in position today,” Oaks said. “It’s about decision-making at the net, finishing, and knowing when to hit, when to tip, and how to place the ball so we can get our opponents to mess up and not receive what we throw at them.”

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