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Grabbing the momentum is difficult in any given high school volleyball match. Keeping that momentum is even harder.

After a stirring finish to snatch victory from an almost certain defeat in the second set Tuesday at Loyola Academy, Evanston wasn’t able to continue that momentum into the decisive third set and dropped a 27-25, 23-25, 25-16 decision to the Ramblers.

The Wildkits dropped to 1-1 on the season despite 6 kills and 24 assists from Eitan Sondak, 8 kills from Xavi Ajamia, and 17 digs from libero Ethan Goldberg.

The Wildkits fell behind 9-2 at the start of the third set and never got closer than four points the rest of the match against Loyola (1-0). That poor start wiped out a fantastic finish in the second set as the visitors trailed 23-18 before reeling off 7 unanswered points to capture the set.

Evanston’s ability to fight off set points was a plus that didn’t go unnoticed by head coach Mike McDermott, even in defeat. “That was a nice comeback, especially in somebody else’s gym,” McDermott pointed out. “I saw a lot of improvement today, and I saw a lot of guys making great plays. But we were way too sloppy to be able to beat a good team like Loyola.

“This year we’re trying to focus on having the ability to reset after every point, but sometimes we’re still not ready to move onto that next point. And we didn’t get what we wanted out of our middles (hitters) tonight, either. We have to be able to run the middle 30 to 40 percent of the time, instead of going to them just 5 or 6 times like we did tonight. That’s just not acceptable.”

Loyola was the team that displayed a finishing touch in the first set, a grind-it-out affair where neither team led by more than 3 points. Jeremy Levin (5 kills) pushed ETHS into a 24-23 lead with a kill, but Loyola’s Connor Kreb answered with a kill of his own. An ace serve, another Kreb kill and an Evanston hitting error concluded the set.

Two aces by Loyola’s Jack Talaga had Rambler fans heading for the exits in the second set, up 23-18 and only two points away from a two-set sweep. Instead, Evanston staged a desperate rally that featured kills by four different players — Levin, Ajamia, Evan Lindley and Sondak — plus a block for a point by middle hitter Isaac Sageman and two Loyola mistakes.

Closest the Kits could climb late in the final set was to within 14-10 on a pair of scores by Ajamia and a net violation charged against the home team. But the Kits lost whatever momentum they had due to a missed serve, a net violation and a hitting error that restored Loyola’s advantage at 17-10.

Source: ETHS Sports Information

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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