08/25/04 — Eastern Wayne volleyball struggles out of the gate

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Eastern Wayne volleyball struggles out of the gate

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 25, 2004 1:56 PM

Less than two weeks into the season, two volleyball coaches -- Bruce Burridge of Eastern Wayne and Lee-Ann O'Neal of South Central -- face the same dilemma: How do I get my team to play to its potential?

Neither the host Warriors nor the visiting Falcons played consistently on every point in Tuesday afternoon's Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference opener for both teams. In fact, errors -- abundant on both sides -- eventually determined the outcome.

South Central twice wasted five-point leads before pulling away 25-22, 25-17, 26-24 against winless and mistake-prone Eastern Wayne.

Burridge, again, is putting a young team on the court. A combination of one senior, two juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen comprise the starting rotation. However, Burridge refuses to use youth and inexperience as excuses for a team that should be used to his system by now.

"I've got people who think they can do everything and they can't," said Burridge, now in his third season. "We're getting ourselves out of position because we don't have confidence in the person next to us because of how old they are and what grade they are in.

"That doesn't work. In my mind, we're a good team but we've got to fine-tune a lot of stuff."

Neither team generated any significant offense in the opening game. Each benefited from the other team's mistakes and both struggled with communication.

"I think some of our girls are adjusting to the rotation of where they're supposed to be," O'Neal said. "I told them they're not communicating enough on the back row and letting too many balls fall behind us or in front of us on the back row.

"That's not going to help us. They have to realize they've got the whole area to play, including the lines and the perimeter."

Eastern Wayne served seven aces, but negated that effort with six serve errors and two serve-receive errors. South Central didn't fare much better with five aces and three errors.

The Falcons built a three-point lead twice only to see the Warriors tie it each time. LeAnna Rothwell knotted the game at 21-21 with back-to-back aces. South Central capitalized on a serve error and two serve-receive miscues to escape with the win.

The Warriors fell behind 6-1 in the second game, but bounced back with perhaps its best rotation of the match. Kristen Elliott, the lone senior, provided one kill and two aces as Eastern Wayne eventually forged a 9-9 tie.

Wasted points and miscommunication continued to haunt both teams before South Central put together an 8-0 run. Stephony Newkirk's back-to-back blocks and then a kill to middle court ignited the game-ending spurt. Amelia Byrd served four aces as the Falcons gained a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-5 match.

"Individually, each of our girls are stronger than Eastern Wayne," O'Neal said. "They didn't play as strong as they could have. Sometimes you have a tendency to play a team, when it doesn't have strong hitters like you do, down to their caliber of play. We're much better than that.

"It could be transition from new coaches, which might be part of it. We changed a couple of things from last year."

South Central found an offensive rhythm in the third game and cruised ahead 20-12 on the strength of six kills and five aces. Eastern Wayne pulled within 20-18 before a controversial net call halted the rally. Tiffany Frazier and Byrd jousted for a ball at the net and it appeared that Byrd was in the net. The chair official called Frazier for a roofing violation.

The Falcons (2-2, 1-0 ECC) maintained a three-point lead and the Warriors rallied one more time. Kindzy McDonald saved a net serve to keep one point alive and connected on a kill off Louise Northington's assist to tie the game at 24-24.

A crucial serve-receive error gave the Falcons a 25-24 lead and Newkirk clinched the match with an ace.

Burridge admitted the last two points were a microcosm of the entire match. Lack of movement in the serve-receive game and inconsistent serving put the Warriors behind or stopped momentum.

He was pleased with the team clawing its way back into the match, but knows there is work to be done.

"I'm not writing off the first half, but I think the second half (of the conference) we're going to be real strong," Burridge said. "I see it. It's there. We've just got to figure out a way to get them together."

Eastern Wayne (0-3, 0-1) entertains Jacksonville White Oak this afternoon and travels to Washington on Thursday.