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Welcome back, coach: Spartans serve up big volleyball win against CK
It was a fun but frustrating homecoming for Central Kitsap Coach Michelle Miller as the Spartans jumped all over the Cougars and Bainbridge beat CK 25-15, 25-21 and 25-15 in girls volleyball Friday.
It was the season opener for both teams, and Miller was making her first return trip to Paski Gymnasium as the coach of the Cougars. Last year, she was an assistant coach for the Spartan squad, which is led by her mom, Coach Julie Miller.
The Cougars started on a tear, opening the first two sets with a 3-0 and 6-0 advantage, respectively, before Bainbridge battled back to ties and never lost the lead again.
The momentum stayed with the Spartans in the third set as they took the lead at the start and ran to a 10-3 advantage.
"I was disappointed," Cougar Coach Miller said. "Bainbridge just is great, but they weren't doing anything that we shouldn't, couldn't have handled."
On the Bainbridge side, Spartan Coach Miller said it was an unfortunate loss for her daughter's Cougar crew.
"They are a way better team than they showed," Miller said.
"I thought we did a really good job of being focused, for the most part," Miller said of her Spartans.
The qualifier, of course, was the second set.
"We just had a little glitch in that second game. But all in all, they stayed focused and stayed on the game plan," Miller said.
The Spartans started slow in the first game, falling behind 3-0 to CK, but Bainbridge tied it at 3-3 and tagged on another six unanswered points for a 10-4 advantage.
Bainbridge continued to roll and built a double-digit lead at 17-7, and the Cougars could pull no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
In the second game, CK shot to a 6-0 edge before Bainbridge started to rally.
The Spartans then outscored the Cougars 9-3 to even the contest at 9-all, then took the lead at 10-9.
After knotting the score twice, Bainbridge broke away for good with seven unanswered points to move to 20-13.
The Cougars crept back into the game and pulled within three points before the Spartans stiffened.
Miller recalled her words during a pivotal timeout.
"I said we needed to stop messing around," she said.
"People get sometimes the mentality of, you can give up a point here and give up a point there. But against a team like that — that can play way better than they showed — you can't do that because it gives them hope. And then all of a sudden, you're like, 'Uh-oh.'
"So I told them they needed to knuckle down and take care of business," Miller said.
The advice stuck.
The third game was all Bainbridge. The Spartans took a 5-1 lead after an extended rally that fired up the home crowd.
Bainbridge moved in front by 10 points, 14-4, and the Cougars could pull no closer than five, as the Spartans cruised to their first win of the season in the non-league contest.
Cougar Coach Miller said CK had a bit of trouble getting into the game mentally. The team is also in a bit of a transition.
"A lot of my girls didn't show up to play," she said.
"We returned one starter from last year. And it was pretty evident, with some people's nerves on the court and kind of lack of people knowing who to rely on and whatnot," she said.
"We're still trying to figure out a starting lineup; trying to still figure out my second outside; and who my second middle is," Miller said.
Even so, Miller added, it was fun to come home to a place where she once coached, despite the outcome.
Lauren Sheehan, a senior outside hitter for the Spartans and one of the team captains, said it was a big win for Bainbridge.
"We've really struggled against CK for so long, and so it was really important to me and the older varsity players that we went in there and worked our hardest," Sheehan said. "It was just a really satisfying win."
Sheehan also nailed the final spike in the Cougars' coffin to finish out the third set.
"So much adrenaline - that was so cool. It felt good to get that last point there," she said.
"We have a really young team, but I think we've worked really, really well together," Sheehan added, praising the play of senior libero Emma Burgess, senior setter Rowan Atherley, junior outside hitter Hannah Wagner and senior right side hitter Kyra Easley.
"We have some really great new middles and DSs [defensive specialsts] and right side. It's been really cool to bond with them," she said.
"It's going to be a good year, based on how we played tonight."
The Spartans will take to the road for their next game. Bainbridge will play Olympic in Bremerton on Sept. 19.