Spartans strike out in Metro volleyball

The Bainbridge Spartans volleyball team chats before practice Thursday to discuss its season-ending games this weekend. -
The Bainbridge Spartans volleyball team chats before practice Thursday to discuss its season-ending games this weekend.
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Monday night’s BHS volleyball match against Blanchet was somewhat of a microcosm of the entire season. After dropping the first game, the Spartans had leads late in the second and third games against the state’s seventh-ranked team in 3A. But they couldn’t close out either one, losing both times by two points.

Coupled with Wednesday’s 3-1 loss at Lakeside, the Spartans ended the Metro League season 0-10, the first time they have gone winless in conference competition. The team’s two victories came early in the season against non-league foes Olympic and Tahoma.

“Metro was really good this year,” said coach Julie Miller. “And we struggled with consistency. We were close in some matches, but not in others. We never found a go-to player. While we had seven seniors, we were pretty young in actual varsity experience.

“We kind of got into a cycle of losing. We had to let ourselves realize that it’s OK to win,” while understanding that wins and losses aren’t necessarily the only barometers of a season.

“It was a really great group of kids,” she said. “They all got along well and enjoyed each other.”

Bainbridge began slowly in the first game, falling behind 6-2 before rallying to tie at 7-7 and 8-8. At that point Blanchet ran off seven straight points and was never threatened en route to a 25-17 win.

The Spartans jumped out quickly in the second game and took a 5-1 lead, but a 9-4 Blanchet run put the Braves on top 10-9. After scoring the next point, Bainbridge ran off eight more points behind the serving of Megan Braun.

But as has been the case on numerous occasions this year, they couldn’t hold the lead and the Braves tied the game at 21 on their way to a 24-22 lead. The Spartans scored the next two points, but a ball that sailed beyond the end line put the Braves up by a point. They closed out the game when the Spartans couldn’t get the ball over the net.

Blanchet took the first four points of the third game and moved out to a 17-11 lead. But after a Braves’ serve was too long, the Spartans rallied with Brigette Blacker serving. Jana Russell and Heather Schneider combined to block a Blanchet shot that concluded an eight-point run and give Bainbridge a 20-17 lead. The teams traded the next four points, then three straight Blanchet kill shots knotted the game at 22.

Though the Spartans took the next two points and had game point, a Blanchet block, a kill shot and a Bainbridge miss-hit turned the tables as the Braves had game point.

A seeing-eye shot by Joanna Shea tied the game at 25. Once again, the Spartans couldn’t close out the game, falling behind on another miss-hit and then having a potential kill shot sailing long.

Russell led the team with 12 kills, while Dominique Atherley added five. Russell also had four blocks, Atherley had 14 digs, and Schneider added 15 assists.

“I was glad to see that they didn’t give up,” Miller said. “They felt good when they came off after the game. Blanchet is ranked No. 7, and we were competitive with them. I thought we played well, especially since we were missing a key player (Emily Donohue, who was attending a funeral).”

Pre-game ceremonies honored the team’s seven seniors: Schneider, Russell, Chelsie Kakala, Donohue, Olivia Luke, Braun, and Atherley.

In essence, the Lakeside match was a case of more of the same. The Spartans lost the first game 25-22, came back to win the second 25-23, but dropped the next two 25-9 and 25-18.

“We played decently in the first game, very well in the second but in the third game we basically checked out,” Miller said. “It’s frustrating for everyone because we feel we are a lot better.”

Russell had 10 kills, three blocks and 11 digs. Blacker added seven kills and seven digs, while Camille Moore finished with 15 assists and seven digs.

The Spartans play today in the Monroe Bearcat Invitational in Monroe, which concludes their season.

Despite losing more than half her roster to graduation, Miller remains optimistic about next season and even further down the road.

“This year was an anomaly,” she said. “I think we’ll be more competitive next year. We have some good freshmen. Half the JV team is made up of frosh. And the eighth grade class looks pretty good.

“But the incoming girls have to put in a lot of work. All the other teams (in Metro’s Mountain Division) play club and CYO volleyball.”

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