Myrtle Point d Mapleton:
8-25, 11-25, 10-25
Falls City d Mapleton
13-25, 19-25, 18-25
Aug. 31, 2019 — Though Mapleton lost its first two games of the volleyball season, the Sailors felt far from disappointed following a pair of non-league home match-ups on Thursday.
“It was definitely a learning experience. It’s the very first time [this season] we’ve played together as a team,” senior Briena Jensen said, pointing out that the team only had a few practices before Thursday’s matches. “None of us have ever played together as a team before. We’re a really young team — we have one senior. The teams we played today were all juniors and seniors.”
Mapleton sophomore Roni Granger echoed Jensen, pointing out the majority of their opponents were season upperclassmen, “But for our second game, we did really good. We played together more as a team. I think we just need a little bit more playing time.”
Jensen agreed. “We definitely pulled it together toward the end … I think it should go up from here.”
Sailors head coach Molly Dooley agreed with that assesment, saying, “I think it was a great learning experience. Most teams have maybe three or four starters that they still have every year. We’re basically starting with a brand new slate, which could be great for us in the long run.”
The Sailor’s inexperience was evident from the get-go in the first game against Myrtle Point.
Though Mapleton got off the first point of the set, it was short lived as Bobcats senior Madison Brown took position to serve, doling out a 6-point streak that left the Sailors scrambling. Callouts were rare as the Sailors seemed timid in communicating who was going for the ball. The situation didn’t improve throughout the short set, which saw the Sailors losing 8-25.
Communication improved incrementally in the second and third sets, with losses of 11-25 and 10-25, respectively, but the Bobcats were too much to handle, taking the match in three straight sets, 3-0.
Dooley pointed out dominating Myrtle Point wasn’t the strategy for their first game.
“It was testing out how each person plays with each other and if this is a good starting lineup,” she said. “Getting it worked out before the actual season starts.”
The strategy seemed to pay off when it came time for the Sailors to go up against Falls City. Mapleton took a strong lead in the first set, with Jensen serving up a 5-point series that ended with an ace.
The Mountaineers rebounded with a 5-point run of their own and, after a few tense volleys, climbed ahead. Three quarters in, the score was 8-22 — but the Sailors refused to give up, rallying when freshman Kiana Moody served an ace that sparked a 4-point rally.
Though the Sailors eventually lost the first set 13-25, they were far from defeated, coming back in the second set with even more communication and longer volleys — one of which lasted nearly two full minutes and causing the crowd to go wild. Even though the Sailors lost the point, the effort put forth was infectious for fans.
“That was insane,” Dooley said. “I mean, you know, a few of those didn’t go our way, but just how they didn’t give up on those is exactly what you want to see as a coach.”
Mapleton lost the second set 19-25, and the high score seemed to bolster the team’s confidence as set three became a tight race — with the Sailors staying within 3 points for the majority of the set. Mapleton trailed by just 1 point, 17-18, when a series of errors from the Sailors, along with some timely aces from Falls City, translated into a 7-point run for the Mountaineers.
Though the Sailors were able to pull off a kill at the last minute, Falls City took the win, 25-18.
While the Sailors may have lost both games, the improvements from the first sets to the last were enormous, said Dooley, who added that the foundation of the team is sound. And when daily practices begin, the team could see its fortunes turn around quickly.
“I’m really excited for the season to get started,” Dooley said. “And today was just a great indicator of where we’re going to go from here.”