September 8, 2010 11:43:00 AM
The lessons were there Tuesday night to be absorbed.
The Columbus High School volleyball team only had to watch the tenacity at the net of Annalisha Harris and Mattie Scarbrough to see how they were supposed to do things.
On the other hand, the Aberdeen High girls had something to learn from Columbus. Even though they won the first two games, the Lady Bulldogs played inconsistently against the steadier Lady Falcons. Columbus'' even-keeled approach helped it win game three and recapture the momentum before Aberdeen regrouped for a 3-1 victory.
Game scores were 25-15, 25-22, 22-25, 25-7.
Harris (14 kills) and Scarbrough (13) paced Aberdeen (10-7), which featured a tall, athletic, and aggressive front line that controlled the net.
Despite their advantage up front, Aberdeen didn''t always receive serve or pass effectively to capitalize. When they did, though, watch out, as the Lady Bulldogs lowered the boom on unprepared defenders.
Aberdeen coach Marquis Burnett would love to see his team play like it did in games one and four, when it used a focused start to build an 8-1 lead en route to its easiest victory of the match.
"We haven''t played back to back games all year," Burnett said. "We play our best and then we''re inconsistent. When we play, we can play with anybody."
There is no denying Burnett''s claim, as Scarbrough, a senior, the lone returning member with experience from last season''s playoff team, and Harris give the Lady Bulldogs a tandem that has few rivals in the area.
Consistency is the problem for Aberdeen. As effective as Scarbrough can be with her jump serve, she also can be inaccurate, as she showed missing two of three serves in game two and missing another serve in game three.
Burnett attributes some of the inconsistent play to a slow start. He said he can''t remember when he last has had all of his players at practice. He said the team struggled to get its complete roster at practice in the preseason, which led to up-and-down play in the first month. He said the team will look at August as a "training session" in hopes of putting everything together this month so it can make a playoff run. Aberdeen is behind first-place Caledonia in its region with a 2-1 record. It lost its first matchup against the Lady Confederates and has one regular-season meeting remaining.
Burnett feels his team is capable of playing with Caledonia if it is focused and passing well to make the most of its size and athleticism at the net.
"I am very confident," Burnett said. "We were working on some things tonight (like getting Linda Scarbrough, who had five kills, more involved in the offense). Once they get the experience we will be consistent."
Columbus coach Shay Ashford also hopes some new ingredients take hold soon with her team. Ashford, a former volleyball and basketball standout at Tupelo High, wants her players to be as aggressive and to swing as hard as Aberdeen''s players. She said her players continue to swing softly or to tip balls when they''re in attacking positions. That approach continues to make it difficult for the Lady Falcons (3-8) to finish points.
"The rallies were good," said Ashford, who is in her second season as coach. "We had some good, nice rallies. If we start swinging there is no telling what we can do."
Columbus'' athleticism is on par with Aberdeen''s, but it lacks the experience and the playoff experience. Ashford hopes she can bring that to a program that has struggled to find its balance. She hopes to be able to get some of her players to attend hitting camps in the offseason. She also will keep working with them to get them to see the mind-set they need when they are in position to deliver a kill.
"It''s like getting to hit somebody and not getting penalized for it," Ashford said of how she wants her players to approach the ball. "It''s like they see somebody they don''t like. They have to take the aggression out."
Ashford said the Lady Falcons have taken that approach only to see their swings result in attempts that go long or wide. She said the misses discourage her players and they revert back to the style they showed Tuesday, where they fail to deliver a full arm swing.
Columbus can take a page from Aberdeen if it wants to sing like that. On several occasions, Harris and Mattie Scarbrough showed the leaping ability and the reach on swings to go up and deliver kill attempts that went straight down with no opportunity for a dig.
Burnett will try to get those swings from all of his players, especially Scarbrough, the rest of the season for more consistent effort.
Aberdeen plays Thursday at West Lowndes, while Columbus will take on Tupelo.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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