Nobody sitting in Seabury Academy's gym Thursday would have thought that McLouth High's volleyball squad has had issues with its serving during its sweep of Elwood, 25-17, 25-16, and Seabury, 25-9, 25-11.
McLouth coach Erika Houk hasn't be satisfied with the performance of her squad at the service line this year and has been running the Bulldogs through serve-specific drills.
It really seemed to pay off at Seabury, with the Bulldogs collecting a combined 30 aces in their two matches.
"We have a huge problem with serves," Houk said. "Taking our time and concentrating is a big issue. But they got yelled at. We're going to have practice in the morning, running for all their missed serves, so that's why they picked it up a lot. That's one of our biggest weaknesses, our serves."
McLouth senior Leah Hoffhines led MHS with nine aces.
In Game 1 against Seabury, Hoffhines closed out the victory by serving four consecutive aces.
"I really struggle with my serving - a lot," Hoffhines said. "To be under pressure and be able to get aces, it was just a great feeling. It just kept me wanting to hit it harder at them so they couldn't get it."
McLouth sophomore Kylie Shufflebarger came away with seven aces to go with her eight kills.
McLouth senior Abby Annis had six aces and four kills.
"The work that we've done in practice really helps them," Houk said. "We put them in a lot of pressure situations and practice on getting their serves. So they take their time back there, and I think that really helps them with getting those aces."
Seabury coach Craig Friedrichsen couldn't help but admire the way McLouth served 17 aces against the Seahawks.
"They serve the ball flat and hard," Friedrichsen said. "They do that every year, hit it flat and hard, and that makes it really hard. If that serve is coming in, between the net and the top of the antenna fast, it's a hard serve to pick up, and they have it. Bria (Phipps) can make that serve, but she's just not consistent enough."
Phipps was really Seabury's only chance at picking up aces, but they still were in short supply for her. In Seabury's 25-20, 25-23 loss to Elwood, Phipps finished with six aces, including a stretch during their second game were she had five consecutive aces.
However, Phipps had just two in the match with McLouth.
The Seahawks picked up just one other ace against the Bulldogs, from sophomore Jamie Fischer in Game 1.
"A good serve really sets up your whole offense," Friedrichsen said. "It really sets up the whole game."