JORDAN — Jordan-Elbridge quickly recovered from a rough first set, but Hannibal proved to be too much.

The Warriors dominated the first set but the Eagles gave them a fight over the final two frames, as the Jordan-Elbridge volleyball team was topped by Hannibal, 3-0, at Jordan-Elbridge High School Thursday. The final set scores were 25-5, 25-20 and 25-15.

Eagles coach Sharon Nihoff's message to her team after the first set was simple: Smile.

"I told them to put the game behind them and smile," Nihoff said. "They came off the floor with their chins to the floor, and you can't play that way. It's a fun game and I want them to enjoy it. ... Besides, if you start to enjoy the game, things are going to start going your way, and they did.

"We ended up on the short end of the stick, but at least they played better and it started to come around."

MaKenzie Kreisler recorded 10 assists and two digs for Jordan-Elbridge, while Molly Derby added three digs, one kill and one block. Emily Bard had five digs, Ashlee Eaton chipped in five kills, and Renee Eggleston and Cassie Schader each finished with three kills and a dig.

Led by Katie Pitcher and her 12 kills, the Warriors had a significant height advantage.

"I knew that they had three girls that are very tall, and it would be tough for us to contain them," Nihoff said. "My strategy was to keep it out of the middle and to get it to the back row so they would have to bring it up to set them up. If it was at the net, we knew we were going to be outplayed, so I said to get it to the back row. We did the majority of the time, but when we didn't you could tell. They're very tall and they're a very talented group of girls."

Hannibal, who was a Section III, Class C finalist last season, took the play to Jordan-Elbridge in the first set. The Warriors had an eight-point run and a pair of seven-point runs in the 25-5 victory.

"My team came out flat, and I just said 'We can't do that. We can't be flat. You've got to come out excited to play the game. It's a fun game to play,'" Nihoff said. "We also had to shut down their middle (hitters), and they did a good job."

Hannibal jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the second set, but Jordan-Elbridge rallied to take a 15-14 lead. The lead switched three times in the frame with the Warriors emerging with a 25-20 win.

The Eagles trailed throughout most of the third set, but prompted a timeout when they cut the Warriors' lead to 14-12. Hannibal regrouped and took 11 of the last 14 points to seal the 25-15 win.

Despite the loss, Nihoff liked the resiliency her team showed.

"We're very young with a lot of sophomores playing, and they've got a lot of seniors that have been playing together for a long time," Nihoff said. "I knew we were up for a tough fight. It was disappointing that they came out flat, but they picked it up."

Jordan-Elbridge has three matches left on its regular season schedule, including a trip to Hamilton Friday. Heading into the homestretch of the season, Nihoff believes her team has shown a lot of progress this year.

"The sophomores have really matured, and the seniors who didn't play a lot last year have come through for me. They've played quite a bit now," Nihoff said. "We've improved a lot."

Sports writer Jeremy Houghtaling can be reached at 315-282-2256 or at jeremy.houghtaling@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenHough.

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