MUNSTER | Shannon Farrell knows how to set a tone.
On Thursday she donned an outlandish headband and strutted the halls in colored socks pulled to her knees, joining her Munster volleyball teammates in a show of spirit.
Her enthusiasm continued in the big match between the Times No. 5 Mustangs and visiting rival Lowell as her nine kills and serving helped Munster top the No. 7 Red Devils 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-13.
The Northwest Crossroads Conference win, which keeps the Mustangs (17-5, 6-2) in contention for a league crown, comes at a good time, Farrell said. The varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams have a scheduled overnight stay in the gym tonight.
"We knew if we were coming off a win it would be much more fun," Farrell said.
Farrell's been enjoying her sophomore season though the myriad ups and handful of downs. She feels privileged to be starting on the varsity, but she's seldom overmatched despite being an undersized (5-foot-7) outside hitter.
Sports performance training has improved her leaping ability and mitigated the potential height disadvantage. On Thursday she was flying around the outside of the net and making clutch kills.
She put down the game-winner during a dominant personal hitting stretch in the third set, and then she served nine consecutive points to put her team up 13-3 in a lopsided fourth set. She finished with an ace on 21-of-22 serving coming off a big weekend when the Mustangs took second at the Lafayette Jeff tourney and Farrell served excellently.
"I practice hitting my spots all the time," Farrell said. "We did a lot of work in practice and watched video of (Lowell)."
Lauren Macadlo led the Mustangs with 11 kills and 12 digs, while Elizabeth Kloos and Caley Mintz each had four blocks in a balanced effort from a deep Mustangs squad.
"They wanted this win and wanted to prove we belong at the top of this conference," Munster coach Tracy Afman said. "We know we can never, ever take (Lowell) lightly."
The Red Devils (13-7, 6-2), who knocked off the Mustangs in Lowell Aug. 30, made a comeback in the first game, falling behind 22-13 and winning 25-23. Jessica Sharkey led the team with 14 kills, ahead of Mackenzie Kreutz's 11 and Anna Sacco's 10. However, Lowell often self-destructed, and coach Kim Kilmer said her team can't snap out of a funk.
Junior hitter Katie Bobos is injured, but Kilmer said there are eight seniors who need to be leaders.
"I'm disappointed, extremely disappointed," Kilmer said. "Again we're going down to teams that are beatable. Munster's a great team, but they're beatable."