STRONG DEBUT: Red Devils cruise in opener with Mertens at the helm

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Sports

August 25, 2016 - 12:00 AM

Hayley Mertens now holds an Allen Community College record and the mark has a chance to stand for quite a while.
Red Devil head volleyball coach Whitney Shaw and her husband Andy Shaw — the Red Devil head men’s basketball coach — spent their Wednesday welcoming their daughter Tatum Rae Shaw into the world. This left Mertens to lead the team in their season opener against Ottawa University’s junior varsity.
The second-year assistant volleyball coach had known for a while that Wednesday would likely be her first chance to coach the Red Devils in a head coaching capacity, but that didn’t stop the nervousness she felt. It was the first time she manned the Allen bench without Shaw by her side.
 “I was nervous a week ago and my hands never stopped sweating (during the game),” Mertens said.
Mertens overcame her nerves and was able to guide her team to a 3-1 win over the Braves. The win made the Red Devils 1-0 on the season and gives Mertens a perfect winning percentage, a record that may stand if Shaw has her way with how quickly she is planning on returning to the Red Devil bench.
“I am so proud of our girls’ ability to pull through tonight,” Mertens said. “I know we made Tatum and Whitney proud, because I know they were watching.”
Allen jumped out to a big advantage early in the first set and kept Ottawa from cutting into their big lead until the very end of the set when Ottawa mustered a rally. It was too little, too late for the Braves and the Red Devils took the first set 25-18.
“We really had that will to win,” Red Devil sophomore setter Sami Cloe said. “We wanted to win so bad because it was our first home game… A lot of people stepped up on our team to get that win.”
Mertens could sense that her team came out with a lot of fire in its opening set in front of the home crowd.
“We started off with great energy and that really carried us through that first match,” Mertens said.
The Braves bounced back in the second set but a late service run from Allen’s sophomore Andi Dowell propelled her team to rally for a 25-22 win.
“Andi was a star for us last year and she will be a star for us this year,” Mertens said.
Dowell finished with a team-high 19 kills and was second on the team with 16 digs. Sophomore Joely Roe led the team in that department with 23.
The third set played out very much like the second with Ottawa opening up leads of three to four points and Allen rallying each time to tie or take a slight advantage. In the end, it was Ottawa who had the last laugh with a late run to earn the 25-22 victory.
In the fourth set, Allen was able to find its rhythm again. Much like the first set, they jumped to an early lead and with Sarah Baker serving the lead ballooned to 16-10.
“In the third match, we lost that energy we had and it was tough to get back, But in the fourth, we brought it back and were able to finish,” Mertens said. “That is hard to do when you are three sets in, but we found it.”
The Braves responded with two consecutive points but the Red Devils ran off four more in a row to extend the lead to 20-14 and they were able to get the 25-18 win and move their record to 1-0 on the young season.
“We regained our focus and we found that strength to win,” Cloe said. “We changed a few things in that fourth set and were able to pull it all together.”
The Red Devils have the next six days off before returning to the court to host arch-rival Neosho County Community College next Tuesday.
Mertens says there were plenty of good individual performances that should lead to optimism against the Panthers.
“Cloe really pushed through for all four sets,” Mertens said. “Our serve-receive was on-point with Joely Roe, Hannah Liggett, Andi Dowell and Sami Cloe. When our serve-receive is on-point it makes it so much easier to get our attacks in.”
Cloe led the team with 37 assists. Sydney Gish was the Red Devils’ top freshman performer with eight kills.
 “I feel good,” Cloe said. “I know we still have a lot of things to work on, but that is every team at this point. I am just really proud of everyone.”

ALLEN WEEKEND
It will be a busy weekend for Red Devil athletics with both the cross country teams and soccer teams having home events on Friday.
At 2 p.m., the women’s soccer team faces off with MCC-Blue River. At 4 p.m., the men’s game against Blue River begins. Cross country starts the Tremec Fall Classic at 5 p.m., with the women running. The men run at 6 p.m.

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