Hamilton and Mountain Ridge trotted out a bunch of new players/starters Tuesday night in their volleyball season opener. Hamilton seemed to be ahead of the game in the retooling/rebuilding process after an hour's worth of play.
The host Lady Huskies pulled off a sweep of the visitors from Glendale, posting a 25-17, 25-13, 25-18 triumph over the Lady Mountain Lions in a Division I match featuring two of last season's D-I semifinalists.
Hamilton and Mountain Ridge posted 30-plus wins each and only five losses last year. A lot of seniors exited, with the Hamilton losing six to graduation, five of whom left with D-I scholarshiips. Mountain Ridge graduated seven seniors. Hamilton coach Sharon Vanis elected a starting lineup Tuesday of three juniors, two sophomores, a senior and a freshman. Before the evening was done she had played all 13 players on her roster, which may be something repeated as the year progresses.
“We have a group that is pretty level (ability),” Vanis said. “Last year we had Brittany (Thomas) and Lauren (Jacobsen) and teams concentrated on them. We'll see what happens.”
Vanis described her team Tuesday as having moments of “brilliance” and moments of “what was that' in the opener. Both teams were tentative in the opening set, trading points with the Lady Huskies up, 15-12. A 6-0 run, most of those garnered with Peyton Gaines serving, broke it open and ended with a comfortable win.
The second set was Hamilton's from start to finish. The third may have been the sloppiest overall, but Mountain Ridge's best from a competitive standpoint. However, service errors were a huge problem for the Lady Lions, who may have had a shot at taking the third with better serves. Mountain Ridge had four service errors in that set and 10 in the match.
Leading the way for Hamilton on the attack side were freshman middle Preslie Anderson with nine kills. Outside hitters Olivia Hallaran and McKenna Woodford cihpped in seven apiece. Woodford is a transfer from Sedona Red Rock. Jessica Williams had 14 set assists and Shelby Babcock came up with 8 digs to lead defensively.
Mountain Ridge, which likes to play a fast-paced game, isn't ready for that yet. Coach Jen McGauley has eight players under 16 (sophomores or freshman). That didn't help against a young, but slightly more seasoned Hamilton.
“We're young with a lot of talented athletes,” McGauley said. “We didn't play well. The biggest thing is we need to find chemistry. The last two years I had eight (players) as sophomores,then juniors and then seniors. They developed great chemistry. We have the athletes to play a fast tempo, but we have to get better defensively. We need to develop chemistry. It may be rought if we don't. We have nine matches against teams in the top 10.”