CENTRE – After being quarantined due to COVID-19 the past couple of weeks, the Cherokee County Lady Warriors were finally able to make their way back to the volleyball court on Tuesday when they hosted a tri-match with Spring Garden and Sylvania.
The Lady Warriors still had some players on acclimation, and only one day of practice, meaning head coach Tiffany Rieger had to go with a younger lineup.
But Spring Garden and Sylvania were also missing players in their lineups too.
However, the Lady Panthers ended up sweeping the tri-match. Spring Garden defeated Cherokee County 25-19, 25-10, then outlasted Sylvania 25-11, 26-28, 20-18.
The Lady Warriors fell to Sylvania in the nightcap 11-25, 18-25.
“Basically I had a decision of just cancel it or practice one night and let the young ones play and get some experience,” Rieger said. “That’s what we decided to do. We moved some people around, moved some JV players up and let them play and get some experience. It was two losses, but overall, in the grand scheme of things, it was progress. I knew it would be good experience for them to see that kind of level and that kind of pace.”
Spring Garden head coach Ricky Austin changed the Lady Panthers’ system for Tuesday’s matches, as he was without two of his starters.
The Lady Panthers struggled at times, but in the end, they were able to persevere.
“We’ve been running a 6-2 all year and we flirted with a 5-1 today. We were horrible at it,” Austin said. “Volleyball is still volleyball. It shouldn’t affect passing, setting, hitting and emotions, but we were scratching our heads a lot. It put us in a tailwind.
“I pulled Aubrey Sadler up from the JV team in case I had to go to a 6-2 so I’d have two setters. I didn’t want to put her in that situation unless I had to with such little practice time. I think she’s going to be able to handle it one day, but she hasn’t had any practice time. She hasn’t even been with varsity until today. It was a tough situation for all three teams. I think all three coaches just had to be patient and understand we’ve got some kids playing out of position, for us especially. That made it tough.”
Against Cherokee County, Haleigh Molock and Autumn Sides both posted four kills for the Lady Panthers (19-5). Abbey Steward added nine assists.
Kenzie Hunter had five assists, three kills and a dig for the Lady Warriors (1-8). Raegan Tierce tallied six digs, three aces and a kill. Sarai Ray posted three digs, two assists and a kill. Madison Leonard delivered four digs and an assist. AK Reyes finished with seven digs.
“Madison and AK had a good night in serve receive receptions, as well as Asa (Sinclair) and Vivian (Connell) doing a good job closing the block on the outside both matches. That’s big, especially when it comes from young players,” Rieger said.
The match of the day was between Sylvania and Spring Garden. Spring Garden built a 21-6 advantage in the first set to cruise to the win, but the second and third sets were both back-and-forth affairs.
Molock and Welsh both finished with 11 kills. Molock also added four aces. Sides and Lexie Adkison both had four kills. Steward contributed 25 assists.
“I don’t understand why this sport can be such a roller coaster at times,” Austin said. “You have so much energy and you’re on a high, but then you’re in a valley and can’t get out of it. We didn’t play with a lot of energy today.
“It’s the middle of the season. This is the grind. No matter about the virus or what, this is the grind. I’ve got seniors and juniors and we’ve got to find a way to grind through it. I do think we can play better, but it’s that part people get caught up in. If you don’t focus, you can lose all kind of momentum. We’ve just got to stay focused and keep grinding, make sure we can keep some portion of momentum going through all this. As a coach, that’s my part, to find a way to do that.”
In the nightcap between Cherokee County and Sylvania, Tierce came away with eight digs, two kills and an ace for the Lady Warriors. Hunter had seven digs, four assists and a kill. Ray collected three digs, three assists and a kill. Anna Walker added two kills and two digs. Leonard had a pair of digs and an assist. Emilee Paul posted a kill, a dig and a block. Reyes delivered four digs. Libby Curry had three aces, and Sinclair finished with a pair of kills.
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