Last year, Albemarle setter Jessie Block spent a lot of time trying to find her timing with a slew of new hitters in the lineup. This year things are little different.
“(She’s) been a mainstay in this offense for quite awhile and it’s nice to have hitters around her,” said Albemarle coach Mark Ragland. “Last year we had developing hitters and we were real inconsistent.”
Albemarle’s passing was on point and despite a scrappy, hard-nosed effort from Orange County’s backline, the Patriots rolled to a 3-0 victory over the Hornets.
Block set the table for a trio of hitters to have a big night. Sarah Woods unleashed 11 kills to lead the way while Hannah Deal also reached double digits at 10 kills. Chelsea Woodfolk rounded out the hitting effort with seven kills on the night. If those hitters are on point, Albemarle should be able to springboard off the 2011 rebuilding year into a strong 2012.
“I think our hitters are starting to get into the groove,” Ragland said. “They’re going to be the deciding factor in how far we go — our setting and defense is going to be there for us.”
Block notched 23 total assists on the night, giving way in game three to Maddie Walters, who finished with 12 assists for the Patriots.
The Patriots jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first game and then traded points en route to a 25-11 victory. Albemarle then matched the effort with a 25-11 win in game two. The Patriots didn’t lose much steam in game three either, picking up a 25-15 victory to close out the match win.
The back line play for the Patriots was also strong. Michaela Malboeuf tallied 11 digs while Caroline Porco had nine and Taylor Bauman checked in with nine herself.
Orange’s back line play was also rock solid.
“We lost a lot of height out of our front room,” first-year Orange coach Rick Schaffer. “I told them we’ve got to be scrappy and play defense. They did that tonight.”
Christina Nammack, Aliyah Linatoc, Rebecca Phipps and Joanie Johnson all came up with dig after dig, prolonging rallies and forcing Albemarle to take several kill attempts to finish off key points. It was marked improvement in that department for a squad that went 1-17 in 2011.