October 5, 2009 2:55:00 PM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
ABERDEEN -- It might be simplistic, but it all starts with the serve for the Aberdeen High School volleyball team.
But when the Lady Bulldogs serve as well as they did Saturday, they''re bound to have success.
Mattie Scarborough had a team-high six aces to lead a 24-ace barrage that lifted Aberdeen to a 3-0 victory against St. Andrew''s in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class I State tournament at the Aberdome.
Set scores 25-12, 25-15, 25-12.
Sommer Burnett added five aces, Mirraca Merhundrew had four, and Dayana McGee, Jameika Hoskins, and Lachal Grant each had three to help Aberdeen improve to 22-3.
"We always say our serve and our first pass is the key to our success," Burnett said. "I did bad (serving). I am used to getting five or six in a row. Today, I only had one or two. It wasn''t enough. I have to pick it up by Tuesday."
Hoskins had a match-high 12 kills to get her teammates geared up for another match against Center Hill. The Lady Bulldogs lost to Center Hill in the second round of the state tournament two years ago and in the first round last season.
This time Aberdeen will play host to Central Hill at a time to be determined Tuesday. The Lady Bulldogs beat Center Hill in the summer and lost to their nemesis in the regular season.
The winner will advance to the state semifinals Saturday at Mississippi College.
A strong serving effort like Saturday''s coupled with what the players hope will be a big home crowd could be the difference.
"We want it because we''re seniors and it is our year," said Burnett, who is one of seven seniors on the team. "It is going to be tough because as teams lose it is going to be better and better competition. They''re going to be ready, so we''re going to have to be ready, so we''re going to have to come with it."
Hoskins was nearly speechless when asked to describe the importance of the second-round match against Center Hill.
"I don''t know how to put this," Hoskins said. "I don''t know. They beat us the past two years ... I don''t know. They will come here and have to drive two hours. We have more of an advantage playing here."
Aberdeen High coach Marquis Burnett had a few anxious moments before the match. Several members of his team competed earlier in the day at a band competition, so he had to drive to pick the players up and didn''t get back to the gym until less than 30 minutes before the scheduled 4 p.m. start.
Coupled with the fact many of his players were at Aberdeen High late Friday night to watch the school''s football team beat Winona, things could have went wrong for the Lady Bulldogs.
Instead, Burnett watched his players deliver a solid effort that he knows will need to be better Tuesday.
"We played not as well as we can," Burnett said. "There were a lot of distractions today. We won, but I told them it is time to focus and get everything out of the way and get ready for Tuesday night."
Burnett said the Lady Bulldogs will rely on their serve to spark them. He said he looks to Hoskins, Burnett, and McGee to get him at least five points each set to keep the team clicking.
Aberdeen will need another strong serving effort if seniors Hoskins, Burnett, McGee, Grant, Merhundrew, Courtney Walker, and Akyra McNairy want to continue their high school volleyball careers.
Coach Burnett is eager to get another shot at Center Hill.
"Our setters are seniors and out hitters are seniors," Burnett said. "We have been waiting for them, so we''re excited. We''re confident. They''re a good team."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.