Volleyball Bruins hoping things get even more interesting
In case you haven’t noticed, momentum is a major factor in high school volleyball. That brings us to Blacksburg, which is in major need of a wave to catch.
The surge started Tuesday, when the Bruins awoke from an extended stormy day slumber just in time to play their best ball of the night in the third game of a River Ridge District semifinal loss to top seed Hidden Valley.
Blacksburg was swept in three, but there’s another match to play today. The hope for the Bruins is the positive effect of the better play in the closing game will carry over to the third-place clash with Salem.
That 5 p.m. contest on the Spartans floor will be a winner-take-all for the district’s third berth in the upcoming Group AA Region IV tournament.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said first-year Bruins coach Lezlie Logan right after the Bruins fell 25-11, 25-14, 25-22 to the Titans. “I told the girls to be up and moving by 8:45 a.m. even if there is a snow day.”
No snow is forecast to close school doors, so presumably Blacksburg’s girls will be back to a typical weekday schedule.
Tuesday, there was considerable sentiment from Logan that the sluggishness experienced by her team the first two games of the match with the Titans partially could be explained by the girls being off their regular game-day routine.
In any event, with senior Lindsey Cusimano (12 kills) providing the necessary leadership and big hits and contributions coming from elsewhere, Blacksburg closed strong.
“They played a lot better,” Titans coach Carla Ponn Poff said. “They played better defense, they picked up some of the balls we hit and I think we lost some ball control and lost some points at the net that we usually don’t lose.”
One of the reasons for that was the play of Blacksburg’s 6-foot junior Uwem Etuk, the one of the few girls on the team who could match up with Hidden Valley big girls Caroline Boone and Madison Morris. Etuk has some key blocks and hits in the last game that seemed to give her team renewed confidence.
“She’s a beast,” teammate Aubrey Kessner said. Added Kara Woodward: “Sometimes when somebody gets a good kill or block, it encourages the team so that we realize we can pull some things off we didn’t think we could.”
Etuk played junior varsity as a sophomore but was not out for varsity last year.
“Going back to the previous time we played Hidden Valley, I was out with a shoulder injury,” she said. “I was thinking [this week] about how well that team plays. Obviously, they are very tall and our team is not as tall, but I choose to use that more as fuel rather than, ‘Oh, they’re so tall, we’re going to have trouble with that.’ I use it like, so they’re tall, we’re going to have to figure out a way to get around that.”
The Bruins are 13-16 and two games under .500 for the regular season district campaign during Logan’s first year on the job. She sees progress.
“We’ve had an emotional year, a roller coaster of a year,” she said. “I think we’re peaking at the right time. Of course, for the whole team and for the program, we would have liked to have marked more wins down. But what we’ve learned as a team is that winning is not everything, that team means more — being a team is being successful off the court as well as on the court.”
When she said “emotional” she wasn’t being careless with her terminology.
“When we hit rock bottom, then we started to come up and there was a lot of crying,” said Kessner, one of five sophomores on the team. “There’s also been a lot of happiness and a lot of craziness.”
Sounds like, er, fun …
“It’s been interesting,” Etuk said.
-Ray Cox covers recreational, high school and college sports in the New River Valley. If you have information you’d like featured, email email@example.com or call 381-1672.
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