Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
BAINBRIDGE — It’s extremely early in the season but the difference between this year’s team and last year’s at Paint Valley seems to be night and day.
The Bearcats seem to have a renewed energy surrounding them while their attitudes are aimed towards moving forward and upward.
In Wednesday’s season opening win over Peebles, that was clearly evident in the second set. After trailing 17-11, Paint Valley fought back to win the set by a 25-21 final.
Last year, that may not have happened. But this season, with maturation on their side, the ‘Cats showed they could fight through early adversity and come out on the other side unscathed.
“For the past month and a half, we have been really working on communication and leadership,” Paint Valley coach Kristin Posey said. “After several attempts and errors, we want to regroup and refocus. So we called a timeout [in the second set] and it was just kind of like, ‘Hey, let’s refocus and try something different.’ So after that, there was a lot of good adrenaline.”
That exact sequence was the turning point in a straight-set win … a 25-11, 25-21, 25-19 final, which is Posey’s first win as Paint Valley’s head coach.
The usual suspects were to blame for PV’s success — juniors Olivia Smith and Abbi Stanforth. But the rest of the Bearcats’ roster showed they could flex their muscles as well.
That’s true for junior Kayla Chapman, who played well at the net and made the Indians (0-2) hit around her all night long. That helped the Bearcats’ defense get to hits easier and, in turn, handed the offense more opportunities to swing.
“We work with Kayla out of the middle,” Posey said. “We need her to be a huge blocker for us. We brought in Rio Grande’s head coach to do a quick camp with us this offseason and she was really impressed with Kayla’s vertical. Kayla can jump. She’s above the net. She’s also been great on the serves and in the back row when we’ve needed her. We’ll keep pushing her.”
Tale of the tape
The Bearcats were in control through much of the match, taking a 9-4 lead to set the tone in the first set. From there, PV went on a 10-5 run to go ahead 19-9 before sealing a 25-11 win.
In the second, behind senior Jacey Justice, Peebles took a 6-2 advantage and stretched that lead to 17-11 midway through. But using a combination of Smith at the net and Mandi Bolles at the service line, the Bearcats embarked on a 9-3 run to tie the game.
Smith then sent a ball to the floor with authority, giving the ‘Cats a 21-20 lead and stealing momentum in the process.
After putting the finishing touches on a 25-21 victory, Smith continued to cook with grease in the third. After Chapman gave the Bearcats a 9-6 lead, Smith made it 15-11 and 22-18 en route to a 25-19 match-clinching win.
“Every practice, we are competing in some way or another. That’s a little different than we first started,” Posey said. “We come in every day in practice and, before any ball is put over the net, we pass 250 volleyballs. Just working on those basics has helped us to be able to run a faster offense. It’s been a good change. We like where we’re headed.”
Smith posted a game-high 14 kills alongside 15 digs. Stanforth had five kills and five digs, Averi McFadden posted 25 digs, Addison Furniss had seven digs and two aces, Kaitlin Potts passed out 17 assists, and Kendall Dye and Madni Bowles finished with 13 and 10 digs, respectively.
Statistics for Peebles were not immediately available.
What’s on tap
The Bearcats will now prepare for a non-conference matchup at Vinton County on Monday. Peebles looks to bounce back Thursday night, traveling to Fayetteville.
“We’re just trying to stay focused on the next game,” Posey said. “We’re not trying to look towards Adena, Westfall or anyone in conference play. It’s just one game at a time. And when we get into SVC action, it’s still one game at a time. We just want to be competitive.”