Valley Volleyball Remains Resilient Following First Loss
Senior captain libero Emma Counter and the Valley Regional girls’ volleyball team notched a win and a defeat last week to move to 6-1 on the season. Counter served up 17 points and had 13 digs in the Warriors’ loss versus Haddam-Killingworth on Oct. 29. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain setter Alena Crosby has impressed this year with her ability to make assists out of balls that appear to be out of reach. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain outside hitter Ava Boyles has had an outstanding year and leads the Warriors in kills. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The Valley Regional girls’ volleyball team claimed the Shoreline Conference Championship after taking down Hale-Ray, 3-2, in the tournament final last season. This year, the Warriors got off to a stellar start winning each of their first six games on the schedule. Valley took its first defeat of the campaign tis past week, but the team is still in prime position to have another solid postseason run in 2020.
The Warriors played two games last week and ended up splitting the contests. The Warriors began their week with a 3-1 home win in a match versus East Hampton on Oct. 27. Two days later, Valley lost a 3-2 decision at home against Haddam-Killingworth. Valley’s record moved to 6-1 after the last week’s results.
Against East Hampton, Coach Patrice Nelson saw the Warriors adjust after falling behind early in the game. The Bellringers took the first set 27-25, but Valley then swept the next three sets 25-10, 25-18, and 25-12.
“Once we got warmed up, they were determined and took the next three sets after losing the first one,” Nelson said. “I think they really just turned it on. That first game, there was just a bit of being tentativeness there. Once we got warmed up they were all back into their game.”
One of the biggest factors in the Warriors’ successful play this season has been the leadership and fantastic play of their senior captains outside hitter Ava Boyles, setter Alena Crosby, libero Emma Counter, and hitter Jamie Pullin. Coach Nelson has been impressed with how they have improved their games as players, which has led to being even stronger captains.
“They have all been really been great. They practically run the team with such good leadership. They’ve matured beautifully even over the course of the season,” said Nelson. “They each play their own role. Ava has been our leader in kills, and when Alena’s setting, she just gets to everything. Emma Counter as libero is out there getting the digs, and Jamie has transitioned from outside hitter to the middle hitter for the time being and has been doing a great job for us.”
The way that Valley was able to lock in versus East Hampton was nothing new for the squad this season. Coach Nelson has watched from the sidelines as the Warriors take control of a game and settle themselves down numerous times this year.
“It’s their self confidence. They are strong and determined. Their composure is impressive. It’s like they have the sense that they can always do it,” Nelson said. “There’s no looking at the bench asking what’s going wrong. They look to each other and communicate. They have know they can win. They just say that they’re taking the game. They’ve really come into their own.”
Unfortunately, the Warriors ran into one of their toughest opponents of the season on Oct. 29 versus Haddam-Killingworth. Both teams entered the night with no losses on the year, so it was one of the premier matches of the season thus far. Valley dropped the fist set to the Cougars by 25-22 margin, but then tied it with a 25-23 second set. H-K claimed the third set 27-25, and the Warriors won the fourth 25-20. The Cougars outpaced Valley 15-11 in the decisive fifth set.
Boyles tallied 20 kills, while Pullin provided 10 kills. Crosby lofted 34 assists. Junior Ella Pitman was the Warriors’ strongest server with 18 points to her credit. Counter served 17 points and also had 13 digs in the loss. Junior Madison Neviaser supplied 11 digs.
The defeat at the hands of H-K was a difficult, but Coach Nelson knows that the Warriors have the ability to bounce back. The game was neck and neck the whole way, and with some adjustments, Valley is more than capable of besting the Cougars if they should meet again come playoffs time.
“We know that we need to work on the defense. Ava can just crush the ball on offense, but we need more than that to win a match,” said Nelson. “We fell short defensively. H-K found our holes, and they dumped and pushed the ball right to those places. They have exceptional hitters over there. Defense and more blocking will be a big help against them.”
Given all the adjustments that Valley has had to make already this season, Coach Nelson believes that the Warriors are more than capable of bolstering their defensive play. If the Warriors have proven anything this season, it’s that they are adaptable.
“Starting out with the conditioning outside was where everyone got used to working with the masks. They were in good shape by the time we got into the gym. I feel like nobody even pays attention to the masks anymore. It hasn’t hindered them at all,” said Coach Nelson. “They circle their hands outside each other and clap their own hands instead of slapping each others’ hands. We have the hand sanitizer on the bench at all times. Most of the girls are even doing school remotely because they don’t want to take a chance at a quarantine from being exposed in a classroom.”
With the end of the regular season very close, the Warriors are taking a modest approach. Coach Nelson knows that it’s easy for a team to get ahead of itself by looking too far into the future. Valley is just going to keep doing its best, and that should lead to success this year.
“I think it’s going to be one day at a time. The playoffs are there, but we aren’t looking at that,” Nelson said. “We’re just looking ahead to the next game.”