August 31, 2010 10:27:00 AM
Call it what you will -- mojo, rhythm, or focus -- but the Victory Christian volleyball team had it working in the final two games Monday night.
The Lady Eagles needed every last bit of momentum they could muster to stave off elimination and rally for a 3-2 victory against Pickens Academy.
Game scores were 25-21, 12-25, 11-25, 25-19, 15-9.
Victory Christian coach Dale Latham used the word "mojo" to describe what his team (4-4) found after falling behind 2-1. The more the second-year coach thought about the term, though, he didn''t like it. He even asked for better words to describe what his team found and settled on rhythm.
"I just reminded them where they were and reminded them what happened last time," Latham said. "I told them if they could stay focused and move their feet (we would come out on top). It just comes down to them."
Ashley Canida helped the Lady Eagles find their groove in the final two games. Usually the team''s leadoff server, Latham opted to move her to No. 2 in the rotation to help take some of the pressure off her. She responded by seven points in game four, including three consecutive aces to push the lead to 21-14 and to help set up game five.
Latham said the Lady Eagles are still working to find the right combinations. He said he has as many as eight starters, and Victory Christian went with a different lineup in game two. But Pickens Academy regained its footing in that game and carried it over to game three, when Victory Christian''s first six players returned to the court.
Latham said he encouraged his players to protect their home court and do what they needed to do to find their focus.
In game five, the Lady Eagles missed their first two serves, including an attempt by Canida, but played steadier in the deciding game. Maggie Gardner had a dig on a kill attempt by Elisabeth Hankins to give the Lady Eagles a 4-2 lead. Pickens Academy coach Wade Goodman called a timeout two points later to try to get his players refocused, but it didn''t work. Kayla Taylor''s underhanded serve proved a little tougher to handle, as she served four consecutive points, including a kill by Maryialys Crowe and an ace, to push the advantage to 10-4.
A kill by Hankins (match-high eight) cut the deficit to 13-8, but she missed a kill on her next try and following a Victory Christian hitting error, a misplaced pass by Pickens Academy sealed the match.
Goodman said his team, which defeated Victory Christian 3-2 in its first match of the season in Carrollton, Ala., lacks a killer instinct to close matches. He said the team showed in the second and third games it can play well and play a bump, pass, kill game when it concentrates and stays positive.
When that doesn''t happen, he said things don''t go right.
"It doesn''t mean enough to us right now to finish people off," said Goodman, who also coaches the girls basketball and softball teams at the school. "We had a lot of standing around and pouting feeling sorry for themselves because they thought they weren''t doing quite as good as they thought they should."
Goodman said his team has a tendency to allow one thing to ruin its focus. The lack of concentration Monday resulted in numerous passing and communication errors. The Lady Pirates also struggled to run an offense on serves Goodman thought his players could have handled.
"When one of your teammates is pouting, it makes it tough," Goodman said. "You need to be ready for the next point (after you make a mistake). You need to shake it off and forget about it."
Harley Lowe had seven kills, Audrey Cochrane had four kills and nine aces, and Whitney Lowe had eight aces for the Lady Pirates.
Crowe and Canida paced the Lady Eagles with six and five kills, respectively. Taylor and Alyka Hamm also added two each.
Latham hopes the victory helps Victory Christian get its balance for the remainder of the season and the all-important conference play. He feels the team has the potential to come together to compete in the playoffs.
"We have to find the right mix where everybody knows each other," Latham said. "Our setter has to know her hitters. Tonight, I just felt like if we kept going we could pull this one out because we were hungry to beat them because they beat us before and it was our gym. I felt they could do it, and they did it."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.