Despite an absence and multiple injuries, the Manchester volleyball team pulled away for a four-set home victory over White Oak on Tuesday evening.
Missing their normal libero in sophomore Sierra Thatcher, MHS Head Coach Tabitha Spires brought up the junior-varsity libero in set number one. However, Spires said that move was detrimental to the flow of her team, who just came off a victory against Fayetteville, as the Greyhounds fell behind early and lost the first set 26-24.
“Our libero wasn’t here tonight so I tried to pull up one of the JV players and I think that’s what threw us off in the beginning was one, we’re down a libero, and two, it’s a JV player who’s never really played with us so that was my mistake putting her in,” Spires said. “It just messed up our atmosphere because we had an awesome game against Fayetteville – like the best game we’ve ever played – and I think I just messed up our flow.”
In addition to playing the remainder of the game without a libero, the Greyhounds were licking their wounds in terms of injuries. Senior Summer Wilbur was playing with a knee brace and an injured serving hand while fellow senior Kayla Wagoner came out of the game in tears during the third set with an injured knee of her own, leaving the squad playing without a safety net for a large portion of the game.
The second set saw the Greyhounds jump out to a 10-5 lead, but White Oak brought it back to 11-9 before Spires was forced to burn a timeout and regroup. What was said in the huddle worked as Wilbur and senior Cassidy Spires had multiple runs of serves to bring the score to 18-11. Spires put the second set away with a kill of her own to even the game at 1-1 as the Greyhounds took set two 25-15.
Spires continued finding the floor with her kills in the third set, forcing White Oak to call a timeout as they trailed 11-7, but frustration continued to seep into the Greyhound side after MHS gave up an easy point when nobody made a move to set a pass from the back line. Coach Spires immediately called a timeout, screaming at her team, “Get over here!”
“Sometimes you got to rip them every now and then to get their butts in gear,” Spires said.
Despite the frustration and the injury to Wagoner, MHS controlled the third set fairly easily as they earned another 25-15 win and led two sets to one.
Senior Morgan Johnson, who finished the game with 29 kills to lead the team, said the frustrations on display in the third set were remnants of the poor play from the first set that the team was still dwelling on.
“I think we were still frustrated about the first game because we knew we had played badly,” Johnson said. “But once we picked it up that’s when it went away. We’re actually a good team and we actually can play together but when we get down on ourselves then we’re all down. But when someone gets up, we all come back up.”
The fourth set, despite playing shorthanded, was never in question as Manchester seemed to cruise despite the adversity. MHS jumped out to a 5-1 lead after a tip by Wilbur found open court. That lead swelled to 12-5 and 17-8 when White Oak called a timeout after mishandling a tip at the net. The game ended on Johnson’s 29th kill of the evening after a long rally to give Manchester the 3-1 victory.
Coach Spires said her team’s back line play was especially key to their win.
“Katie Sandlin really stepped up,” Spires said. “She’s not a back row player but she had excellent passing. Her and McKayla Smith really stepped up and played back row very well.”
Manchester’s next game will take place Tuesday night at home against Fayetteville with junior varsity beginning at 5 p.m.
Reach Charles Grove at 937-544-2391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.