ROYAL CITY, Wash. — Visiting College Place overcame a missing setter, a rowdy crowd and the Royal Knights here Tuesday in a South Central Athletic Conference Eastern Division prep volleyball match. 

With junior Madi Neil spending the night in a hospital following an appendectomy and the Royal student body doing its best to distract the Hawks, College Place prevailed 17-25, 25-12, 25-19, 25-15 to improve to 5-2 in league matches and 7-3-1 for the season. Royal saw its league record dip to 1-6.

Neil normally joins senior Susanna Bauman in coach Angie Potts’ two-setter starting lineup. But with Neil recovering from surgery, Bauman was called upon to work both rotations and finished the night with 31 assists.

Potts said her team’s first-set defeat was largely due to the lineup change.

“There was a lot of hesitation and uncertainty at first,” the coach said. “I think having Madi in the hospital and making minor adjustments just kind of threw them off.”

But by the second set the adjustments were made.

“I changed a couple of hitters around and yelled at them a little bit,” Potts said. “The nice thing is we have made a lot of lineup changes and rotation changes based on who we are playing.”

But mostly, she said, it was a shift in mentality that turned the tide. And the Royal fans played right into the Hawks’ hands.

“The Royal student section was loud and rambunctious and that really helped us out,” Potts said. “We feed off the crowd, and our own mentality of not wanting to lose kicked in.

“The refs asked us if we wanted them to tone things down and I said, ‘No, it’s actually helping us.’ I didn’t think it was anything that was rudely directed at an individual player.”

Ellie Christensen led the Hawks at the net with six kills, Makayla Thomas scored 42 digs, and she and Vanessa Rodriguez scored six serving aces each. Rodriguez also killed three balls.

Cali Long accrued 10 aces, seven digs and four kills, and Kristin Lara and Zoe Hardy finished with five and three kills, respectively.

The Hawks are now 5-2 in league play, 7-3-1 overall and firmly entrenched in third place in the SCC East with the chance to move up. Kiona-Benton is alone in second place at 6-1 and will entertain College Place on Thursday.

“Ki-Be is definitely a big one,” Potts said. “We did not play well at all against them the first time we played them, and hopefully we will do a better job Thursday.”

The coach isn’t sure what her setter situation will be like by then.

“Madi has already asked the doctor if she can play,” Potts said of Neil. “I don’t know that part yet, but she was supposed to be released from the hospital this morning.”