Eagle attacks came from all angles Thursday as the veteran Arlington volleyball team earned a 3-0, season-opening win at Fort Calhoun High School.
The Pioneers — a much younger club without a senior on the roster — were unable to get their footing, falling 25-16, 25-11 and 25-22.
“There was just a lot of chaos,” new FCHS head coach Sarah Rangel said.
The Pioneers — with emotions running high in front of the home crowd — were a little too hard on themselves when things went wrong, she noted, which led to more errors the coach feels they've worked on and avoided during practice.
“I'm not disappointed in the loss, we're going to lose games,” Rangel said. “I'm realistic. I've been coaching for 21 years. We're not winning every single match, but I would like them to go out there with the mentality that that is the ultimate goal and I don't feel like we did that tonight.”
Arlington, meanwhile, applied pressure throughout the match. The Eagles were surgical at times, effectively sharing the ball and landing attacks.
“If we can control everything on our side of the net, we'll be victorious every time,” AHS coach Katarina Nelson said. “I think we showed a lot of grit, especially in set three, and dug deep.”
Senior Kailynn Gubbels opened the first match of the season with a kill through a Fort Calhoun block. Chase Andersen's spike from her new position, outside hitter, pushed that lead to 6-1 as the Eagles started fast.
Fort Calhoun battled back within two, 14-12, with Bailee Spencer's ace, but the Pioneers couldn't complete the comeback. Cassidy Arp's set-clinching serve went unreturned.
The Eagles went ahead 2-0 with a dominant second set, closing it with back-to-back Andersen aces and a heavy Gubbels swing from the left side.
FCHS showed promise early during the third, taking a 13-10 advantage when Grace Genoways beat an Arlington block, but it wasn't enough.
“Volleyball is such a mental sport, and everyone's picking each other up,” said another Eagles senior, Kate Miller, noting her team's experience and chemistry. “We just care for each other and that matters more than anything. If we can't get along, we can't play good.”
AHS did execute, finishing with a 41.7 kill percentage compared to the Pioneers' 32.1. Gubbels led Nelson's squad with 10 kills, while Andersen had seven, Miller had five and Lizzie Meyer notched two. Gubbels also had six aces, while Janessa Wakefield totaled 19 assists.
The Eagles' opening-day lineup was filled with familiar faces from recent years, but in a different rotation. Andersen's move from the middle to outside hitter appeared to diversify the team's attack.
“Kate Miller and Lizzie have really stepped up in the middle spot,” Nelson said, explaining why the position change is working. “And I feel that the whole team has done a good job playing whatever position the team needs.”
“She's just a beast,” Miller said of Andersen. “She was prepared for everything.”
The senior was pleased with how her squad performed out of the gates.
“I think there's just a lot of balance now,” Miller said.
Fort Calhoun, meanwhile, has room to grow with a high ceiling.
“The expectation, I feel like, is pretty high,” Rangel said. “I've set the bar pretty high for these girls because I do believe they can do it.”
The lineup, the coach and the connections on the court are new, but the Pioneers can excel.
“They are young, but we have a really good solid group of juniors,” Rangel said. “It's just about finding out how to work as a unit.”
Spencer led FCHS with three kills, two aces and two digs. The Omaha Christian Academy transfer, who is the daughter of assistant coach Ron Spencer, stood out for her demeanor, too.
“She doesn't care if she makes mistakes,” Rangel said. “She really, genuinely, has fun. She doesn't get down on herself. She bounces back.”
Its an attitude the coach hopes Spencer's teammates emulate.
“Now, if we could spread that throughout, we'd be good,” she said.
All told, Rangel was excited to see how the next day's practice would go.
“Do they fight? Do they fold?” the coach asked. “I think that it's a group that is going to fight.”
Arlington's large senior class has fought for three years, hoping for a breakout season this fall. If the opener is any indication, the Eagles just might be ready to make it happen.
“I think everyone's in the right place right now,” Miller said. “We're just so excited.”
AHS goes 2-1 at Plattsmouth
Arlington continued its first stretch of games Saturday with a 2-1 showing at a Plattsmouth tournament.
The Eagles won 2-0 matches against Nebraska City and Platteview after opening the day with a 2-0 loss to Raymond Central. They placed fifth in the eight-team tournament.
Coach Nelson's squad is 3-1 after winning eight games all last season.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here