All four county teams see action in season warmup –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
Exhibition volleyball action came to North Adams High School on Friday, Aug. 12 as the annual Southern Hills Athletic Conference Preview Night welcomed all ten of the conference volleyball squads for their first public look. All four Adams County schools participated and acclimated themselves well in their first performances before a paid audience.
The format for the evening was that each contest would consist of two sets, played to 21 and the first match up of the evening saw Coach Katrina Obershain and her Peebles Lady Indians facing off with the Whiteoak Lady Wildcats. In the first set of play, the score remained close until a series of service points by Christian Reed pushed Peebles to a 12-6 advantage.
A later pair of service points by Baylee Justice put the Lady Indians up 17-9, then a kill by Madison Pierce and a service ace from Sara McFarland put their team two points from taking the set. The winning point came on another Reed kill, resulting in a 21-13 Peebles win.
With Justice back on the service line, the Lady Indians blasted out to a 6-0 lead in the second set and never looked back. A trio of service points from McFarland made it 11-1 and four more from Jessica Johnson stretched the lead to 16-2. A kill by Josie Myers capped the night for the Lady Indians as they also took the second set, topping the Lady Cats 21-5.
“I was happy with how tonight turned out,” said Coach Obershain. “I told the girls that we had to serve better in the second set and that is what happened. Your first game in front of people is always nerve-wracking and I like the preview for that but hopefully when we get into the regular season, fans will see more blocks and hits and such but we are learning more and more everyday.
Next on the night’s docket was a match up between the Fayetteville Lady Rockets and Coach Debbie McClanahan and her West Union Lady Dragons. The Lady Dragons are a relatively young but very athletic squad and for them, Friday night was a “tale of two sets.”
Early in the first set, a string of five consecutive service points by Gloria Purdin gave West Union a 6-3 advantage. The two teams then traded points for the majority of the remainder of the set before Purdin came to the service line again with the score tied and left with her team on top 16-13. The first set closed with a service ace from Kiersten Rowe and a Jaycee Baldwin kill as the Lady Dragons claimed the 21-15 victory.
As sharp as the Lady Dragons looked in the first set, they regressed in the second set as numerous miscommunications led to easy Fayetteville points. Give the West Union girls credit, however, as even with their mistakes, they kept the score close. A pair of service points from Baldwin kept the Lady Dragons close, but a string of serves from the Lady Rockets’ Haley Moore put her team up 20-14. West union hung in with an ace from McKenzie Bickett, but the final point of the set went to Fayetteville and the two teams had achieved a preview split.
“In that second set our girls decided that they were going to stand and watch and they shut down themselves,” said Coach McClanahan after the split. “It’s not an excuse that we have not yet had a practice with a full team present, but you could see how much work we still have ahead of us, but again it is just a preview. We had some good volleys in the first set, some break downs, but we were able to regroup and we communicated in that set. At times in the second set, we looked like we had never played before. We had some kids that were nervous of course.”
“Our biggest thing is just getting everybody in the gym because tonight was not the rotation that we will normally use, it was just a fun night for us to get everyone in there.”
The only new face on the coaching sidelines in Adams County made her debut later in the evening as Coach Kaci Compton brought her Manchester Lady Greyhounds to the court to face off with the Eastern Lady Warriors. As usual in a first outing under a new coach, there were some kinks to be worked out but also a burst of enthusiasm as the Lady Hounds begin a new era.
Eastern jumped to a quick first set lead but the Lady Hounds battled back, using a kill by Hannah Grimes and a service point from Aaliyah Smith to stay within striking distance. The Lady Warriors proceeded to stretch the margin to 12-4 before four service points from McKinlee Grooms again brought the Lady Hounds back into contention.
That was the last stand of the first set for the Lady Hounds, however, as Eastern rode the strong serves of Sydni King and Mackenzie Strole to a 21-11 win.
The second set turned out to be one of the most exciting of the preview as the two sides battled back and forth, even though the match meant nothing in any standings. Again, it was Grooms on serve for three consecutive aces to give Manchester a 6-5 lead. Later, the Lady Hounds’ Abby McFarland steeped up to serve and was unstoppable for five points, aided by a kill from Katie Sandlin, and Manchester went up 13-9. Unfortunately, the Lady Hounds couldn’t hold the lead as Eastern battled back to get six of the set’s next eight points. The Lady Warriors then got the set’s final five points to take a 21-17 victory.
Even though her team dropped both sets, Coach Compton still saw a lot of positives in her squad’s performance.
“They really played hard,” said the Manchester head coach. “They worked together well and they kept fighting and didn’t give up. We just have to work out the kinks. The talent is there, the rotations are there, we just have to work more on our communication. We only have our JV squad to practice against at home so it took us some time tonight to get used to the returns on our hits and getting back in position.”
The last county squad to hit the court at the SHAC Preview was the North Adams Lady Devils, again under the guidance of Coach Katie Ragan, and again the overwhelming favorites to win the conference in which they currently are riding a 39-match winning streak. The Lady Devils faced the Lynchburg Lady Mustangs on Friday night and though their play could not be described as “sharp”, they still managed to take both sets.
Leading in the first set 7-5, the Lady Devils got a Madison Jenkins kill and an Avery Harper block to double up the Lady Mustangs at 10-5. A service ace by Charlee Louden and a kill by Brooklyn Stout during a run of serves by Abby Campton put North Adams in front 18-9 in set they eventually won 21-13.
The second set stayed close until three service points from Sydney Kendall put North Adams in front 10-4, and it was all Lady Devils from there. Kills by Stout and Campton and a trio of Kendall serves closed out a sweep for the host team, as they took the second set 21-9.
“We had a scrimmage yesterday at Western Brown which was pretty tough and we practiced this morning and we looked sharper yesterday,” said Coach Ragan. “Tonight we weren’t real sharp but we did enough to win. Our serving was pretty good, passing was up and down, but it is still a little early in the season.”