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Volleyball: Indians shut down Gladstone in season opener

Tribe tops the Glads 25-18, 25-15, 26-24 to open the 2014 season


Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Junior setter  Ashley MacInnis lets out a yell after winning a point in the second game of the Tribe's straight set victory over Gladstone in Tuesday's season opener.Stepping onto the court for the first varsity match of the season, things still felt a little unsure for the Tribe volleyball program. They’d lost a host of seniors, gutting the program’s top squad and forcing head coach Mark Sprenger to fill the holes and put together a youthful roster before the league season rolls around.

They came through the preseason jamboree with mixed results, falling in tight contests to Tillamook and Astoria, beating Seaside and falling to Banks, the defending Cowapa League champion.

But on Tuesday evening, when things finally began to count, the young Indians found themselves in the midst of a roller coaster ride. They’d taken the first two sets from Gladstone in their home opener, pulling away after the Gladiators fought to stick around, and once again sat in a closely contested mid-game tussle.

Tied at 13, Sprenger had seen enough. He called a timeout and gathered the team around, pulling the youthful players back to home base. After a short minute in a huddle, they put their hands together, stepped back on the court and promptly scored seven unanswered points.

They’d need another reminder, this time as the Gladiators had gone on a wild rally of their own to tie things at 24, but a quick word turned into two quick points, bringing the first match of the season to a close and leaving the Indians clutching a 25-18, 25-15, 26-24 victory.

And even with a win in straight sets, Sprenger saw plenty of work to be done on a squad he said would have to play like veterans by the time Cowapa League play arrived, or be “thrown to the wolves.”

Early season mistakes are expected, especially during the preseason when there is time to work out the kinks. The ‘kinks’ for Scappoose were on the serving end: The Indians missed 28, 10 of which came in the final frame.

“That’s got to change. You can’t miss 10 serves in a volleyball game, or you’re not going to beat very many teams,” Sprenger said.

The defensive side of things, however, which were a concern during the first few days of practice, went well.

“I thought we serve received really well tonight. It’s kinda hard to -- we worked a lot yesterday at practice on defense. We didn’t have a team that pounded balls at us, so we didn’t get to see how much that worked out,” Sprenger said. “We passed really well tonight. I thought our offense was decent. Kinda up and down, but that’s volleyball.”

Experienced varsity returners Hannah Carey and Alyssa Spang stood out, both on offense and on defense. Carey and Spang will likely be the backbone as the team develops an identity over the next several weeks, and will lead the Indians into a difficult stretch of league games that features powerhouse programs littered throughout the schedule.

For now, though, it’s about taking the positives and building a little more with each match.

“I thought our outsides did a decent job,” Sprenger said. “Our right sides could have hit a few more sets. I thought our middles, I’d like some more consistency out of our middles. We hit a lot of balls out, and we tipped too many balls and when we get up against a good team, we’ve got to swing.”

Consistency, as evidenced by the broken surges of offensive brilliance for Scappoose, remains a point of emphasis for Sprenger, who said he is right about where he expected to be at this point in the season, and is looking at trimming down the rotation with the last pieces of preseason action.

“I got three JV players in tonight, I had two freshmen in tonight -- and that’s not what’s going to happen, but I’m going to give them an opportunity and see if somebody steps up because I’m definitely going to need to move one of them up,” Sprenger said, referring to the upcoming matches at home on Sept. 4 against North Marion, and at home against Estacada on Sept. 10. They’ll also have a weekend tournament, their first of the year, before meeting Seaside on Sept. 16 to kick off the league schedule.

SUMMARY

SCAP 25 25 26 -- 3

GLAD 18 15 24 -- 0