After falling to Horseshoe Bend during an umpires clinic just before the season started, Benjamin Russell’s volleyball team knew it was going to be in for a fight Thursday night.
But the Wildcats asserted their dominance early, holding off a near comeback from the Generals to win Set 1, 25-23. They then rolled to a sweep with a 25-17 in Set 2 of the best-of-three match.
The victory came on the heels of a 2-0 loss to Elmore County earlier in the tri-match. Horseshoe Bend, on the other hand, defeated the Panthers.
But in the in-county matchup, it was the Wildcats who jumped out to leads and held on. Benjamin Russell used a nice mix of strong hitting and timely tipping to throw the strong General defense off its game.
“We knew going into this game Horseshoe Bend is a very defensively sound team; they were going to keep the ball up,” BRHS coach Magan Ford said. “(Our girls) were talking like, ‘We’ve gotta push here; we’ve gotta tip there; we can’t just swing,’ so they knew that, they recognized it and they did it.”
Early on, it looked like it was going to be a battle as the teams went basically point for point until they were tied 6-6. But behind the serve of Benjamin Russell’s Ja’Niya Martin, the Wildcats took a 10-6 lead. They held onto that lead and built it up to as many as seven points before Horseshoe Bend started to chip away at it.
BRHS had several set point opportunities as it led 24-18, but the Generals weren’t giving up that easy, cutting it to 24-23 before Zaria Roberson finally got the last kill in the Wildcats’ favor.
In the second set, Horseshoe Bend didn’t quite show the same fight. After Benjamin Russell took an eight-point lead, the closest the Generals got was within six.
“That’s what we struggled with last week when we played in our tournament too,” HBS coach Julie Turner said. “They get down on themselves and will be down then they’ll get right back up and be fine. But if they ever get seven or eight points behind, we kind of shut down. That’s going to be something we’ll work on and dig deep inside to see if we can figure it out.”
As scrappy as Horseshoe Bend was, the Wildcats used their offensive versatility to overcome that. They finished with nine point winners on tips.
“That’s one of our strong points is being a really scrappy team,” Turner said. “But we still have to work on covering behind tips. They realized that we can pass the ball up so they tipped on us, so we’ve gotta work on that.”
As strong as HBS’ defense was, Benjamin Russell matched that intensity. Ford, in fact, credited her back row with the win.
“Any time I talk to anybody I talk about the hitters looking great, which they do, but the reason they look great is because of Bailey Underwood, Cheaney Keel and Ja’Niya Martin,” Ford said. “They are keeping the ball up and giving (setter) Makenzie (Davis) things to work with to then let our hitters be as great as they are.”
Horseshoe Bend did get a surprising spark from Charlie Ann Cotney, who was thrown into a starting role due to some disciplinary issues for another player, Turner said. Cotney finished with four kills against BRHS and three versus Elmore County.
The Generals defeated the Panthers, 25-23, 25-22. Caly Carlisle led the offense with four kills, while Abby Cheatam finished with two digs.
Elmore County rebounded well and defeated Benjamin Russell, 25-21, 25-22. Sarah Rogers racked up six kills and Timira Lawson followed with five. Underwood contributed nine digs and Lawson and Keel each added five.