Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
The 2017 volleyball season got off to its unofficial kickoff on Friday, Aug. 11 as North Adams High School played host to the now annual Southern Hills Athletic Conference Volleyball Preview. The nine SHAC schools who will be fielding varsity volleyball squads this season were all on hand, along with some assistance from the North Adams JV team, who filled the empty spot left when it was announced that West Union would not be having a varsity team.
The night was a good tuneup for the SHAC squads, many of whom had already been scrimmaging out of conference to prepare for the fast approaching regular season. The format for Friday’s preview was a match made up of two sets to 21 and in the night’s first match up, Eastern Brown topped Whiteoak 21-11, 21-4. Next up was Fayetteville and Ripley, with Fayetteville prevailing 21-16, 21-7.
The first Adams County squad to take the court was the Peebles Lady Indians, under the guidance of new head coach Rachel Sims. The Lady Indians were matched up with the Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs and the first set was not a thing of beauty on either side, as service errors ruled the day, the two sides combining for 11 in the set.With Lynchburg leading 16-12, Peebles ran off five straight, powered by three service aces from Kylie Sims, to take a one-point lead. The Lady Mustangs bounced back in a big way, taking five of the set’s final six points to win it 21-18.
In the second set, Lynchburg raced to a quick 6-0 lead, but the Lady Indians scored the next six, five of them on Baylee Justice serves. After two more Lynchburg points, Prebles reeled off seven more, fueled by the serves of Johna Dunigan to lead 13-8. A block a kill, and an ace by Tatum Arey kept the Lady Indians lead a comfortable one as they took the second set 21-15.
“We were missing a starter tonight so we had some people playing out of position,” said Coach Sims after the match. “The first set we just seemed to be a little nervous, and then we get behind 6-0 in the second set, but the girls said that once Baylee served and got us back, they felt totally different. I thought we covered pretty well tonight and did some good things around the net, but we will definitely need to work on our serving.”
Next up came the fill-in North Adams JV squad, who took on the Fairfield varsity and put up a pretty good fight, falling in the first set 21-16 and then dropping the second set by a score of 21-17. The JV Lady Devils had some solid performances, the serving of Desiree Ison and Christin Young along with nice net play from Whiney Hill and Delaney Harper.
The finale of the evening saw the host team and the class of the conference, the North Adams Lady Devils, tangling with the Manchester Lady Greyhounds, and the home team showed why they are in the midst of a 52-game conference winning streak, as they swept the two sets, 21-9 and 21-5.
The North Adams girls have a lot of lethal combinations, and the first set began with three service points from Abby Campton backed up by three kills by Avery Harper. Neither team served well during the first set, with the Lady Hounds misfiring on their first four attempts, allowing the Lady Devils to build a lead. A trio of service points from Adison Wright gave North Adams a 13-6 advantage and later a pair of aces from Campton made it 17-7.
A pair of service points by Harper closed out the first set, but the Lady Devils picked it right back up in the second set, rolling to a 9-1 lead behind four consecutive kills from Charlee Louden. A series of Wright serves kept the lead in double digits and the second set ended with two aces from Campton to close out the night’s action.
“It was a little rough for us tonight,” said Manchester head coach Kaci Compton. “We had just way too many service errors against such a good team and I have no idea where that came from because our serving in practice has been very consistent. Maybe it was just the first-night nerves and going up against a team like North Adams.”
“The sophomore who I put in as middle blocker / hitter, Madison Jones, played like she wasn’t afraid and our libero, Sierra Thatcher, played really well for us. We have a week to get ready and we definitely will work on our serving.”
North Adams head coach Katie Ragan saw a familiar pattern in her team’s play on Friday night, a slow start before turning on the jets.
“The first set just never seems to be our best set,” said Ragan. “By the second set tonight, we were feeling our groove and having a good time. We were working on some different things tonight, some worked and some didn’t.”
“We have three really tough scrimmages before we get to the regular season, so we will hope to stay healthy and then improve our serving and passing. If anyone has any tips on how to get them to play a better first set, I’m open to suggestions.”
The regular season for Peebles begins on Aug. 22 when they travel to Eastern Brown for a tough SHAC opener. Manchester opens on Saturday, Aug. 19 with a tri-match on the road with Lynchburg and Georgetown, while North Adams sees regular season play for the first time on Aug. 22 with an SHAC road trip to Fayetteville.