- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Doug Ford
A mood of optimism and anticipation prevails as the Comets varsity volleyball team approaches its Western Valley District opener at Comets’ Gym tomorrow night. And, Halifax will get an early indication of where it stands in the district race after playing Franklin County, last year’s tournament champion.
The Comets, who have a 9-4 record entering district play, are primed for a top-tier finish this season, according to coach Steve Mattox, whose team has been ironing out a few details in preparation for Franklin County.
“We have Franklin County here to open the district and it’s a good opportunity for us to take it to them and get that first win,” began Mattox.
“I know what they lost and what they have coming up, and Patrick Henry will be strong also, but we took games off both of them last year and I feel this team is stronger.
“Practice has been going great, the service game is looking a lot better and the girls have a lot of confidence, so it will be interesting to see how the girls come out and play.”
Mattox said he was very optimistic and the team has had good practices, despite a one-week gap in the Comets’ schedule between its last match and tomorrow’s district opener.
“I wish we had another game because it’s hard to simulate game situations in practice,” Mattox pointed out.
Mattox has not been surprised by his team’s work ethic and athleticism thus far, but has been surprised by its seemingly slow starts and some gaps in communication on the court.
“I knew we would be athletic this year, and that has not surprised me thus far, but what surprised me were our difficulties in communication on the court, especially on the back row, and the quality of our passing on the back row,” Mattox explained.
“They know what to do and how to get ready, but another thing that has surprised me this year is our slow starts, despite our athleticism. I can’t understand that sometimes.
“We are capable of jumping on a team right at the start, and I’m hoping that happens once the district starts.
“If that happens, our district opponents had better watch out because as I’ve said before this is probably the most athletic team in the district.”
Most of those issues confronting the team have been corrected, Mattox continued.
“We took our best passer (Jessie Bagbey) out of the back row to set,” he said. “Jill Trickey, on the back row now is getting better and better, hustles and works hard, and wants to get better.
“Kate Bane has helped us tremendously with her passing, and Jameshia Smith is also a good passer.
A key strength for the Comets thus far has been at the net, with Mattox having the luxury of a number of attackers.
“We really don’t drop at all as far as hitters, our front row is solid and is as deep as ever in that regard,” Mattox said.
“I like our rotation there now, with Whitney (McCargo) on the front row who can hang in the air,” Mattox said, adding Nia Brown and Melyse Brown have added depth and athleticism to the front row.
“It’s hard to block McCargo and the Smith girls (Jamilia and Jameshia) are playing well. Johanna (Spencer) and Kelsey (Thompson) can play anywhere, and all the girls can serve.”
Another big key are the passers and setters getting the ball to the attackers in good position to finish a play.
“The key is getting the ball to them in a good position to hit, and that’s what we’ve focused on in practice this week, back row digging and getting the ball to our front row to put it away, with accurate sets for our attackers.”
The Comets seniors are looking forward to district competition, including McCargo, a member of the Comets varsity girls’ basketball team.
“The feeling of anticipation is the same as it is in basketball because the district is what counts, and I face some of the same girls in basketball as I do in volleyball so it’s just as intense,” said McCargo.
Bagbey, along with Spencer a co-captain this season, said the team is mentally ready for a solid district run.
“We’re a lot more athletic and have more attackers, and as long as we work together, we’ll be fine.” Bagbey explained.
“Our attitude overall is good and we’ve gelled together really well, so that’s a plus as we enter district play.”
Thompson knows it’s time to produce solid results in the district.
“I’m really excited to start out, because this is one of the first times I feel we can finish first or second in the district,” Thompson commented.
“As long as we stay focused, and as long as we stay together and not get down on ourselves, we’ll be fine.
“We need to play each game like it’s our last.”
Megan Day agreed that this is the team’s best chance to get a top-tier finish in the district in several years.
“We have the athleticism and team chemistry and as long as we don’t get down on each other and communicate on the court, we should be fine,” said Day.
“That was one of our weaknesses at the beginning of the year, and solving that has brought us closer as a team.”