Fulton Lady Hornets volleyball coach Megan Herrick had a nagging feeling before her team's game Tuesday night.
Coming off a big win at NCMC rival Boonville on Monday night, the l-word was on Herrick's mind: letdown. And having that kind of attitude against the Marshall Owls, their opponent on Tuesday night, could conceivably leave Fulton in serious trouble.
"You never know what you're getting into with Marshall," Herrick said. "You never know and can never underestimate a team like that, and I was afraid we were going to come in and not expect much from them."
The message was heard loud and clear by the Lady Hornets, who cruised to a straight-set North Central Missouri Conference victory over the Lady Owls at Roger D. Davis Gymnasium.
Fulton's wins of 25-11 and 25-8 left little in doubt for the reigning NCMC champion. In fact, once her team took to the floor prior to the match, Herrick's fears were alleviated.
"Once I saw us warm up and play, no, I wasn't nervous," Herrick said. "I feel bad for saying that, but I wasn't."
In fact, her lack of nerves over the opponent was the real letdown of the day.
"I was surprised -- in fact, I was a little disappointed -- because we've seen better from Marshall," she added.
The two teams played Sept. 2, with Fulton scoring a 25-20, 25-19 straight-set win at Marshall. There'd be no tight play Tuesday night as the Lady Hornets put away seven of the match's first eight points.
Fulton's aggressive approach at the net seemed to throw off the Lady Owls' attack, highlighted by sophomore middle hitter Fern Stevermer's two solo blocks during the first game. A chunk of the big hitting was done by senior outside hitters Meghan Davis and Haley Clark, who put away 12 of the Lady Hornets' points off kills.
Clark led Fulton with 11 kills, while Davis chipped in six of her own. Nothing went well for Marshall, which got blitzed by 16 unanswered Fulton points in the middle of the second game that seemingly put them out of contention.
"I don't know if they were missing players or just having a rough night, but we've seen better from Marshall," Herrick said. ""We were trying new plays (Tuesday night), and we had some junior varsity players playing and we still did a good job of controlling things."
Statistically, Fulton received contributions from the usual suspects. Sophomore setter Melissa Hoerber had 18 assists and senior libero Emily Wefenstette posted six digs.
But Herrick is looking for a total team effort in order for the Lady Hornets to make a deep playoff run.
"I'd like to see us move the ball around better and not go to the same hitters," Herrick said. "I understand that if it isn't broke don't fix it, but against tougher teams we're going to need to utilize all of our players rather than just a few."
With five more regular-season matches and a tournament at Crystal City, Fulton (18-5, 6-1 NCMC) isn't the same fresh-faced team that broke out to win conference and district honors in 2009. The Lady Hornets know what's ahead. And that alone could keep any stench of a letdown away.
"Going into sectionals last year, they were wide-eyed and looked so timid and afraid," Herrick said. "Now going in, they'll be a little more prepared."
The junior varsity Lady Hornets pushed Marshall to three sets before coming up short 25-19, 16-25 and 25-21 on Tuesday night. Fulton's freshman team lost 25-21 and 25-20.
The Lady Hornets travel to Kirksville for an NCMC tripleheader at 5 p.m. Thursday.