Old habits die hard, and trying something new can be a difficult thing for anyone, including a sports team.
Sedona Red Rock High School’s volleyball team did not begin to experiment with its new plays until the third game of its sweep [25-12, 25-14, 25-21] of Chino Valley High School on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
“They went back to their comfort zone instead of trying some of the new plays that we’ve been learning. So I really had to push them to run some of their new stuff,” Scorpions co-coach Danni Barker said.
Barker had to let them know it was OK to drop the third game, as long as they were running the new offense, which forces the players to think and change plays on the fly.
Once they did, the natural imperfections showed: Miscommunications at the net, lack of timing between setters and hitters, and a much tighter game in which they trailed a good portion.
“We had some congestion at the net because of the lack of communication,” Barker said. “They need to learn to switch things in transition because if the pass pulls the setter to one position, then that play is out the door and they have to switch, but they were still trying to run that play even though it wasn’t an option.”
As the game went along, they felt like they began to gel. It was a good opportunity for them to work with it in a real game situation given that they were up two games to zero already.
“It kind of takes practice and us getting used to each other,” said sophomore setter Morgan Fritz. “I think since the scrimmage [on Aug. 19] we’ve been really working on the plays so that’s made us a lot better.”
The sophomore setter-hitter duo Fritz and Jacki King provided some of the more exciting plays on the night. Many of King’s towering kills drew loud cheers from the fans and bench.
Fritz finished with 21 assists and King had 11 kills.
“I think I connected really well with the hitters today, so that’s always on the plus side,” Fritz said.
Senior libero Liza Westervelt was solid at the back, digging many of Chino Valley’s best attacks.
The Scorpions took a 7-0 lead at the start of the first set. The Cougars did not score a point of their own until it was 18-8; their first seven points came from Scorpions service errors.
King and senior outside hitter Julia Koss combined for 11 kills while the team served up three aces.
Chino Valley began to grow into the match during the second set, forcing longer rallies. Nonetheless Red Rock kept the visitors on the back foot with strong, balanced offensive play.
The Cougars were forced into sending a lot of free balls over the net, allowing the Scorpions to dictate play.
If it was not King nor Koss springing up for kills on the outside, then it was either Kelsey Woellmer or Abby Stevenson, both junior outside hitters. Each began to produce in the second set.
In the third set the hosts went up 1-0 on a kill by Koss, but it was back-and-forth from there. After it was tied
5-5, Chino Valley went on an 8-3 run to open a 13-8 lead.
Red Rock began to reel the set back in off the heels of consecutive blocks and another Koss kill.
Woellmer came from the weak side for a kill to knot the set at 15 and Chino Valley sent a ball long to cede the lead, which the Scorpions never relinquished.
Barker acknowledged there were some nerves, but was happy with how the team had fun and embraced their new-look style of play.
The Scorpions traveled to 3A Winslow High School the following evening and won 3-1.
They next play at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 5 at Payson High School.