The Bethel College volleyball team played a strong first set, but spent too much time playing from behind in the next three, falling to Sterling College on Wednesday at Thresher Gym.


It was the Threshers’ second loss to Sterling in five days, but neither match counts in the KCAC standings.


"I thought we just needed to work on getting our blocks closed a little bit more," Bethel coach Stacy Middleton said. "We need more touches on the block. We need to work on terminating the play. We had some long rallies. We just couldn’t win a few of them. We also missed too many serves."


Like about everybody this season, the Bethel volleyball team has had some ups and downs in the preseason, including getting shut down a few days after a number of COVID-19 positive tests on campus. The schedule has been revised a couple of times and will now include some spring play.


"There hasn’t been anything the same," Middleton said. "We just roll with what we have. We’re managing it. We’re all healthy. That’s good. We just had to learn to practice with our masks on.


"The girls did really good with (the shutdown). It was a precautionary thing to make sure we’re all good. It worked itself out. We were able to get some conditioning in and have some team meetings."


Annie Connor led the Sterling attack with 14 kills, followed by Colleen Meffert with 12, Emily Peterson with 11 and Meghan Mickle with 10. Breanne Akiu set 31 assists, followed by Lainey Robinson with 14. Mickle served two aces. Carmin Butterworth had 21 digs, followed by Eliana Ponce with 17, Mickle with 13, Akiu with 11 and Robinson with 10. Meffert downed three blocks.


For Bethel, Mia Loganbill had 11 kills, followed by Paulina Diaz with eight. Kaitlyn Shima set 13 assists, followed by Kaylee VanderVeen with 12. Loganbill served two aces. Katey Wilhelm had 29 digs, followed by Jensen Roth with 12 digs. Diaz downed two blocks.


Bethel led the first set by as many as seven early, 17-10, holding off a Sterling comeback


Tied 7-7 in the second set, Sterling went on a 4-1 run. The Warriors led by as many as seven, but the Threshers rallied back to tie the set 23-23. A Loganbill spike got the Threshers to game point. After a Sterling time out, the Warriors scored three straight to win the set, ending it on an ace.


Tied 10-10 in the third set, Sterling made a 4-0 run, followed by a 4-0 Bethel run. Tied 18-18, Sterling made a 3-0 run. Bethel tied it back up 21-21, but Sterling made a 4-0 run for the set.


Bethel took a 5-1 lead in the fourth set, but soon found themselves trailing 8-6. Tied 15-15, Sterling made a 3-0 run. Bethel tied it up at 20. Sterling then pulled out to a 23-21 lead, prompting the final BC time out of the set. The Warriors were able to hang on from there.


"These are non-conference games," Middleton said. "We couldn’t play outside our conference area to keep us all safe, which is what we all want."


Bethel is off until Sept. 22, playing Friends and Mid-America Christian in a triangular in Wichita. It will be one of several triangulars the Threshers will compete in this season, including much of conference play.


"Playing two conference matches in one day is going to be a little bit tough," Middleton said. "We’re going to have to be in really good shape to make sure we can finish, especially if it goes to game five. … This schedule has been difficult. We’re just doing the best we can. We need to continue to get in good shape. We need to work on blocking. We need to work on our mental toughness."