Lineup changes yield positive results

By: 
Sonja Karp

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Reporter

 

Last week started off a little rough for the Newcastle Lady Dogie volleyball team, but by the time they wrapped up their third match of the week, they had turned things around and picked up their first conference win of the season.

Head coach Ashley Reed’s team played progressively better as the week went on. However, their first contest of the week in Torrington on Tuesday did not go well.

“I’m not sure what happened, but we just stopped talking and stopped doing pretty much everything right,” Reed frowned. “Often times, we will have one set where things are a little shaky, but then we’ll pull it out and compete. On Tuesday, things just went from bad to worse.”

In three quick sets, the ladies succumbed to the Lady Trailblazers 16-25, 12-25 and 8-25. As a result of the team’s performance, Reed decided to change up her lineup for the remaining two contests of the week.

The team was tasked with taking on the powerhouse Douglas Lady Bearcats at their place on Friday, and despite facing a much more daunting opponent, the Lady Dogies played decidedly better than they had in Torrington.

This was the first time they had competed with the new lineup and Reed thought they performed pretty well considering the squad only had a couple of practices with the system. 

Douglas brings multiple threats to the court including middle blocker/hitters who are 6’4” and 6’1” respectively and alternate manning the net. Reed described Coy, the team’s tallest player, as looking like a “tiny little being” standing across the net from those players. 

“I thought we did pretty well and our blocking looked awesome on Friday,” Reed declared. “We struggled to adjust to their offense though because we haven’t played anyone yet who can hit the ball straight down. We are used to backing it up on defense so it took a while for us to get used to moving forward for those hits.”

Their height also wreaked havoc with the Dogies when it came to their own offensive attacks as evidenced by the kill to error percentage of spike attempts, which was -17 percent for Newcastle. 

“We were hitting into the block,” Reed nodded. “We have a tendency to set close to the net and with them being able to reach three feet over it, it really doesn’t work out well for us because there’s really no way to go around the block.”

The fire power and defensive presence of the Lady Cats resulted in a Newcastle loss in three straight sets 11-25, 14-25, and 6-25.

In their only home game of the week, the Lady Dogies met up with the Wheatland Lady Bulldogs for the fourth time this season on Saturday. Heading into the competition, Newcastle held a 2-1 advantage and advanced to 3-1 by the end of the day. 

“The girls came out ready to play in the first set. They were pretty pumped and played pretty good,” Reed grinned. “We definitely seemed to click a little bit better with the new rotation than we did on Friday, so that was great to see.”

Newcastle made short work of their opponent in the first set, winning 25-13, and continued in the same vein taking the second 25-18. Wheatland rebounded in the pivotal third set, defeating the home team 25-17, but the Lady Dogies returned to their winning ways in the fourth set, pulling out the 25-23 win to claim victory. 

Reed admitted that adding a W to their conference record was a great way to end the week, but also expressed concern at her team’s serving percentage.

“Our serving is atrocious,” she exclaimed. “We are serving at right around 75 percent on the season right now, and it is tough to win matches with those kinds of numbers.”

Percentage wise, the team’s serving in Tuesday’s contest was a dismal 78 percent, Friday’s was 85 percent and Saturday’s was 82 percent. Given that serving is really the only part of the game where one has complete control of the outcome, anything below 90 percent is not what a team wants to see if they expect to be successful.

The ladies have all week to try to address their serving woes, as they only have one contest to prepare for on Friday afternoon against the Lady Bulldogs of Sundance. They will also have to use that time to prepare for playing without starting setter and outside hitter Madi Pearson, who will be gone for the contest.

“We have a couple options of how to handle her absence. We will be playing around with a 5-1 and a 6-2 to see which works better for the team,” Reed explained. “Our game this week is the perfect opportunity to experiment, given there is nothing on the line playing Sundance.” 

Due to the Homecoming football game kicking off at 7 p.m. on Friday, the freshmen squad will play at 3, the JV at 4 p.m. and the varsity 5 p.m.

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