BY CHAD DARE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — The Schlarman Academy volleyball didn’t play a match for the first three weeks of the season.
Instead, the Hilltoppers, who reached the Class 1A Elite Eight a year ago, spent all of that time practicing.
“It was a little rough,’’ Schlarman coach Heidi Crane admitted. “More than three weeks of practice can get old after a while. And it was hard to see what we need to work on because we kept seeing the same thing in practice.’’
On Tuesday night, in their second Vermilion Valley Conference match of the year, the Hilltoppers saw a very strong performance result in a 25-4, 25-16 victory over the Armstrong-Potomac Trojans.
“It was really tiring,’’ said Schlarman senior Janelle Marion of the lengthy preseason practice routine. “We were really excited to get the season started last week.’’
Schlarman opened the year with a win over Bismarck-Henning last Thursday and this past weekend, the Hilltoppers went 2-3 at the Jacksonville Tournament, playing four Class 3A teams and one Class 4A team.
“We came in with a determination that we will not take anything for granted, we are going to come out strong and hard,’’ Marion added.
And that was exactly what the Hilltoppers did on Tuesday night.
Schlarman scored 19 straight points in the first set on the serve of Jordan Marganski with Marion contributing five of her match-high nine kills during the stretch, while Laura Gross chipped in with four.
“Jordan did a great job of serving,’’ Crane said. “Basically, the girls were following the ball well. They were covering everything and the girls at the net were making sure do their job, putting up the blocks when necessary.’’
Armstrong-Potomac, which falls to 7-2 overall and 2-1 in the VVC, saw a 2-2 first set turn into a 21-2 deficit en route to a 25-4 loss in the opening set.
“We expected her to be a good jump server, but we were not on the top of our games and she caught us off-guard,’’ Armstrong-Potomac coach Candy Franzen said. “Our mental and physical errors caught us off-balance.’’
According to Marganski, who had a team-high 17 assists to go along with two kills and one block, the goal for the Hilltoppers is to play as clean as possible in every match.
That first set was exactly what they have been striving for, and even though the Hilltoppers won the second set 25-16, they still see some areas that need improvement.
Crane said that she wants to see her offense play a little faster and more aggressive.
“We’ve been working on that in practice and that will come the more we work on it,’’ said Marganski, a senior. “We have a lot of ways to go with that.
“We need to do a better job of converting that good first set into the second set. That is something that will also come with more match experience.’’
In the second set, Schlarman was guilty of eight hitting errors while the Hilltoppers recorded just nine kills. In the first set, Schlarman had 14 kills and just one hitting error.
“We just made more errors and that got us sidetracked,’’ said Marion. “But, it still feels great to get a victory.’’
Rachel Miles had a team-high four kills for the Trojans, while Morgan Zindars had eight assists.
“We are progressing,’’ Franzen said. “We are working on keeping the intensity through out the match, instead of the ups-and-downs that can happen in volleyball.
“We wanted to play a faster tempo game and that didn’t happen tonight. Our passing game wasn’t what it usually has been and that kept us from running an offensive play.’’
Both teams will hit the road on Thursday for conference matches. Armstrong-Potomac plays at Salt Fork, while Schlarman is at Hoopeston.