BELL CITY -- It was almost like a flick of the switch.
On Thursday night, the Bell City Lady Cubs turned up their level of intensity before sweeping the Bernie Lady Mules 25-16, 25-12 during a prep volleyball match.
Bell City, which improved to 7-1 this season, received eight kills apiece from Rachel Spears and Jessica Abner. Both players were responsible for kickstarting an attack that Bernie (2-2 overall) simply could not handle.
"It was total intensity from the girls," Bell City head coach Erin Hoffman said. "I think we only made three mistakes all night. And every time the mistakes happened, the girls came right back with more intensity."
Mistakes aside, Bell City used a trio of short scoring spurts in Game 1 that amounted to 3-4 points each time it served the ball. The Lady Cubs saved their most fierce eruption for later.
At the serving line in Game 2, Spears scored nine consecutive points that turned a 2-2 tie into an 11-2 advantage for the Lady Cubs. The only thing that thwarted Bell City's rally was Spears herself, who committed a service error on her tenth straight attempt.
Abner hammered down a pair of kills during the match-deciding rally, while Jenny Lathum, who had six kills, added two hits of her own. Spears helped her own cause by dropping an ace in between the Bernie defense and capped the scoring spree with a kill.
"This is the team that we have to beat, if we want to win a district title," Bernie coach Jeff Rodgers said. "And this match told me that my team clearly has more work to do before we can contend with Bell City."
Since winning the MSHSAA Class 1 state championship in 2003, the Lady Cubs volleyball resume has been quite impressive. Bell City advanced to the state quarterfinals in 2004 before making a pair of MSHSAA Final Four appearances in 2005 (third place) and 2006 (fourth place).
The lead for the Lady Cubs eventually grew to 11 points (20-9) when Spears and Codie Lancaster combined to block the Lady Mules' attack. Lancaster, the Bell City setter, finished with 18 assists.
Throughout the night, Bernie managed to hold a total of three one-point leads. The Lady Mules led 1-0 in Game 1 after Jenny Eubank generated the first kill of the match. In Game 2, Eubank's block put Bernie ahead 1-0 before a hitting error staked the Lady Mules to a 2-1 lead.
With the exception of five additional ties, the Lady Cubs were in control the rest of the way.
"They outplayed us in every facet of the game," Rodgers said. "It's amazing how Bell City stays up and hustles. It's better than any other team I've seen."
Eubank, who was an important part of Bernie's offense, had three kills and three blocks. Kristin Eaves contributed a team-high four kills. Sami Palmer, Sarah Deason and Amber Mirth kept rallies alive for the Lady Mules by recording nine digs apiece.
"This was the first match that we have had this season where our intensity level has been high all night long," Hoffman said. "We have work at sustaining efforts like this one."
Spears posted 14 digs to lead the Lady Cubs, who also received 11 digs from Sherilyn Long, seven digs from Lathum and six digs from Abner.
Bernie outlasted Bell City in three games during the junior varsity match 25-23, 26-28, 26-24.