Washington learning from tough non-conference slate

Published 8:01 pm Thursday, August 25, 2016

Washington’s volleyball woes continued Thursday with a 3-0 sweep at the hands of Riverside. The Lady Pack lost 25-11, 25-5, 25-19, marking its third defeat in a row.

The third set highlighted some of the team’s strengths. Briley Waters and Summer Campbell, among others, hit the ball well to earn the Lady Pack some crucial points. The entire team was able to capitalize on Riverside’s mistakes, too, to keep the set close.

Much like in their loss to Northside earlier in the week, though, the girls took multiple sets to settle in and relax.

“Riverside is a solid team and we knew that coming in, which is what baffles me,” coach Kendall Hihn said. “In the third set, they seemed to relax a bit. It goes back to wondering were the first two sets warm-up games? They were talking a little more. I asked the girls when Riverside called a timeout, ‘What was the difference between this set and the others?’”

Hihn said it came down to the Lady Pack players having fun on the court and communicating with each other better. That communication broke down a bit in the middle of the third set as the visiting Lady Knights pulled away.

Trailing 24-14, Washington got the serve back when Riverside sent it into the net. The Lady Pack rattled off five unanswered points before the Lady Knights called that aforementioned timeout and won the match shortly after.

“They got so far behind and seemed to shut down,” Hihn said. “That’s something we’ve got to break through. … I’ve worked the snot out of them in practice. They’re moving their feet and talking the entire time.”

Sophomore Summer Campbell serves to Riverside. She had a good showing in Thursday’s loss.

So far, Washington’s non-conference schedule has been a grueling one. The girls’ lone win has come against Southside. They have struggled against traditionally strong teams such as Northside and the Lady Knights.

While that schedule was already in place when Hihn took over as coach, it’s something she’s thankful for. It may not be kind to the team’s record, but seeing such talented competition now will pay dividends once Washington opens 2-A Eastern Plains Conference play at Farmville Central on Sept. 13.

“They are competitive with us, which is good. That’s always important to have your non-conference games strong so you can prepare for the conference,” Hihn said. “We have a strong conference. It’s going to be an eye opener. I think the biggest thing we can take away is that the girls are starting to see what I’m saying. … We have to find that point where it clicks.”

Hihn, who is experiencing growing pains of her own as a coach, is already figuring different things out. She said she made an adjustment to the starting lineup that saw Samantha Sheppard slot in as the outside hitter.

The girls, too, have grown through the adversity. Mckenzie Seiler stood out for Washington by being talkative throughout and getting to the ball on a consistent basis.

“She was killing it all night,” Hihn said. “She maybe let the ball hit the ground once. She knew that, if no body else was moving, she was going to get there. I’m going to commend her for that.”

Washington is gradually piecing things together. While the girls are in the midst of a slump, different aspects of the game are coming together. That should put them in a good position when conference play arrives.